Friday, November 9, 2012

USA v Russia Preview

A sporting contest of epic competitions will but the small Welsh town of Colwyn Bay on the map. The Northern Wales town is to host the USA v Russia latter on today in what is the first of two international matches taking place there tonight. The location is odd as it is not a home game for either the USA or Russia and nor is it for Canada or Samoa who will go head to head in the second match. USA Rugby was vocal in its opposition to playing in Northern Wales, suggesting it should have been in London or in North America. However it is not a total loss as the IRB will be screening the games live on at 1:00pm eastern time. 

It is the first international match for both teams this season. A number of the USA Eagles players featured in the recent Americas Rugby Championship in Canada playing for the USA Select´s while there is a strong number of professional players. Russia has a team packed with professionals with most of them based in Russia but not all. Vasily Artemyev has been an impressive performer in the Aviva Premiership for the Northampton Saints and Kirill Kulemin is playing for London Welsh. The remaining thirteen plaeyrs in the starting lineup are local based players. Russia has had preperation for the IRB International Rugby Series by taking on Oxford University and completing a 29-15 victory. 

The USA is entering the match with an eye to the future. The team features some noticable changes with next years Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifying matches clearly already the focus. The team will have a new halfback combination. Robbie Shaw has been named at scrumhalf and will be joined by Toby L´Estrange who will be making his international debut. L´Estrange is an unknown. He comes to the USA Eagles after having played his rugby for Australia´s Shute Shield Champions, the University of Sydney.  He only recently arrived in the USA but is an American. He was born in Berkely, California in 1988. He will not only be debuting but will also be the goalkicker. Other players who will start that did not feature in June are John Quill and Cornelius Dirksen. Quill is a much needed openside flank option for the USA. It enables Todd Clever to play at the back of the scrum where he has proven to be the most useful. It also gives the USA a complete backrow combination with Scott LaValla being the link player from the backrow to the secondrow. 

There are some missing players with Biarritz´s Taku Ngwenya not involved. He is a part of the squad but faces a similar fate to that of Marcelo Bosch and Francisco Gómez Kodela with the Pumas pair missing out on the match against Wales. A second players missing if Northampton´s Samu Manoa. His non-selection is a negative and is also nothing new after he missed out on playing at Rugby World Cup 2011. Regular scrumhalf Mike Petri is also missing but will return in time for the USA´s second match of the tour. The selection of Dirksen should recieve attention in Wales due to his brother, Hanno Dirksen having previously played for the USA against Munster. He is now a try scoring machine for the Ospreys in the Rabo Direct Pro 12 and could very well be playing for Wales at Rugby World Cup 2015, and possibly against Cornelius should Wales and the USA be drawn in the same pool. 

The teams have met on five previous occassions. The first was a Cold War battle in September 1988 with the Soviet Union hosting and defeating the USA 31-16. Since then the USA has won every time. In 2004 the teams met in Tokyo in the Super Powers Cup with the USA winning 41-11. In 2010 they faced off at the home of the USA Eagles, Infinity Park and put on a highly entertaining match before the USA ran away 39-22 winners. They met again in the 2011 Churchill Cup in Worcester in what was a preview for their match at Rugby World Cup 2011. On that occassion the teams played running rugby and the North Americans completed a 32-25 victory. Their match in New Plymouth, New Zealand is the most recent game they have played. The USA´s 13-6 victory was the difference between a successful and unsuccessful World Cup campaign.

Key Matchup
The most obvious clash to look out for is that between Gresev and Clever. The two players are key as are Artemyev and Emerick. Their performances will need to be impressive or their teams could struggle in the key areas of the backrow and midfield. Another notable matchup will be fought in the frontrow, particularly at hooker with V. Tsnobiladze and Chris Biller both being leading hookers from rugby´s Tier Two nations. Potentially, however the clash of Simplikevich v Hume could be really interesting particularly given the likely intention of playing running rugby. 

History shows it is advantage to the USA. Indeed, this should be a North American victory despite Russia have more all-round experience. The shortfalls in the USA should not be a problem due to the experience of Todd Clever, Chris Wyles, Paul Emerick, Shawn Pittman and Lou Stanfill. Furthermore the results that Russia has registered in 2012 suggest it is advantage USA. Russia defeated Portugal by one point and Spain by four but was badly defeated by Georgia and Romania and also lost by six points against Uruguay. USA to win by 12 points.


1. Shawn Pittman
2. Chris Biller
3. Eric Fry
4. Brian Doyle
5. Lou Stanfill
6. Scott Lavalla
7.  John Quill
8.  Todd Clever 
9. Robbie Shaw
10. Toby L’estrange
11. Luke Hume
12. Andrew Suniula
13. Paul Emerick
14. Cornelius Dirksen
15. Chris Wyles

16. Zachary Fenoglio
17. Nick Wallace
18. Tony Purpura
19. Inaki Basauri
20. Peter Dahl
21. Mike Petri
22. Rolan Suniula
23. Gearoid Mcdonald 


1. G. Tsnobiladze
2. V. Tsnobiladze
3. Pronenko
4. Voytov
5. Kulemin
6. Temnov
7.  Butenko
8.  Gresev
9. Shcherban
10. Sugrobov
11. Ostroushko
12. Makovetsky
13. Artemyez
14. Simplikevich
15. Klyuchnikov

16. Korshunov
17. Volkov
18. Zykov
19. Boltenkov
20. Garbuzov
21. Babkin
22. Gaisin
23. Gerasimov

USA v Russia, 2010

USA v Russia, RWC 2011

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