Sunday, December 4, 2011

USA vs Russia - Churchill Cup 2010

Rugby fans on social media tend to agree that one of the best things to come out of Rugby World Cup 2011 was Russia. The world´s largest country made its debut in Pool C of the tournament and faced off against well recognized opposition including Australia, Ireland and Italy. In all three matches the Russian Bears managed to cross the try line as they played an exciting brand of running rugby. Russia were not quite as solid when defending but the team were very impressive considering they were making their first appearance at a Rugby World Cup. The sides other pool match was the one getting all the headlines Russia faced off against the United States of America in New Plymouth. The match was highly promotted as being the battle of the two former Cold War Super Powers and it was anticipated as being a match of open rugby. The match was certainly highly competitive and went down to the wire but due to very wet conditions and the occassion being a Rugby World Cup match and the only match considered winable for both teams the match itself did not live up to the expectations that many had placed on it. The USA won the game 13-6 but, truth be told, the Eagles were in control of the match despite winning by the margin of one converted try.

Part of the reason for the hype of the match can be attributed to the match played at Glendale, Colorado in 2010 in which the USA and Russia played an open game of rugby in which the scores regularly changed hands before the North Americans managed to go on top in the secondhalf. Over sixty points were scored and North American was shown why Russia had been able to topple European sides such as Romania and Portugal. The USA showed great resolve to win the match as the Eagles stamina got them home to a 39-22 win, a result which does not reflect the competitiveness of the match. The game was an early look at the what was around the corner at the World Cup the following year and, indeed, a number of players from both sides would go on to be starts of Rugby World Cup 2011. Russian fullback, Vasily Artemyev scored his sides first try through a brilliant individual effort. Another star of New Zealand 2011, Victor Gresev scored Russia´s second. Two of the USA´s best perfomers at New Zealand 2011, Chris Wyles and Mike Petri both scored for the North Americans as did Taku Ngwenya who, surprizingly, failed to score a try in the whole 2011 World Cup.

The two sides are testiment to the need to have rugby´s showcase tournament taken to more places as there are clearly more sides able of competing at a strong level than at any time in the past. Japan 2019 will be the first time the Rugby World Cup has been hosted outside of a traditional power and will be the first time Asia has hosted the event. Argentina 2023 is the perfect follow-up with Los Pumas being the highest ranked team in the World whose union has not hosted a Rugby World Cup. With the USA and Canada both also being from the Americas, the strength of Argentina as an option only grows stronger. Rugby as a global sport needs matches such as the USA vs Russia to to played in places like Toyota, Japan or Santa Fé, Argentina.

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