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Russia’s second chance to impress at the Rugby World Cup

One of the great things about the Rugby World Cup is that we get to see some rugby-playing nations in action who don’t often grace our TV screens. The likes of Georgia, Uruguay, Namibia and others get a rare chance to prove themselves in front of thousands.

Another such team is Russia, who return to the Rugby World Cup for the second time after making their debut in the 2011 edition of the tournament. While that turned out to be a humbling experience, losing four out of four games in the pool stage, Russia will be hoping that Japan 2019 can represent a new start.

They were in a tough pool in 2011, one which featured Australia, Ireland, Italy and the USA. Their 2019 draw is also a difficult one, with matches against Ireland again, Scotland, Samoa and hosts Japan. Ireland crushed them 53-13 in 2011, and given this Irish side is even stronger than the 2011 iteration, it’s difficult to see Russia getting anything out of that match.

Scotland will be another tough challenge, but Russia might fancy their chances of pinching something off Gregor Townsend’s side. Scotland must guard against complacency at all costs. Japan will have the home crowd behind them, and if Russia are to get the better of them it will be important to capitalise on any pressure the hosts might be feeling. Samoa are a proud rugby nation, but sit only three places above Russia in the world rankings. Perhaps that match will offer the best chance for the ‘Bears’ to record that first World Cup victory.

Russia’s head coach is the former Welsh international Lyn Jones, who took charge last year in advance of this World Cup. Jones has spent most of his coaching career in his native Wales, and so the challenge of taking charge of an international side will be a difficult one, but one the former flanker will be relishing.

While it is likely that Russia could again suffer defeat in all of their matches, the opportunity to make an impression on the world stage is one that their players will undoubtedly relish. With little expected of them, Russia will be able to play with the shackles loosed, and go out and make a statement.

This Russia side will be able to use their 2011 appearance to their advantage. Making your debut in a tournament like the Rugby World Cup, with so many world class rugby teams present, may be a daunting prospect. But with this being Russia’s second appearance that pressure should be alleviated. They will now feel like a side that belongs at rugby’s greatest showpiece event, rubbing shoulders with the elite.

This World Cup offers a chance to really boost the game in Russia. Perhaps kids tuning in to cheer on their country might fall in love with the sport, and future generations of Russian internationals will be inspired to take up the game and forge their own paths in world rugby. While 2011 may have been a harrowing experience for Russian rugby fans, the promise of a second chance could provide that boost the nation needs to birth a new wave of talent. For the players themselves, it is a chance to establish themselves in a sport where Russia have for so long been an underdog.

To bet on the 2019 Rugby World Cup head to www.betfair.com/sport/rugby-union.