Russians have one left in NZ

With one match to go on their short tour to New Zealand, Russia will be looking to finish it off in fine style when they line up to play Otago on ANZAC day tomorrow. Boosting a record of 1 win and 2 losses form their three matches, the Russians have shown that they can compete and that they are learning new things from their tour. Giving the 26 players each a game have been the elusive goal set by the Russian rugby league team. The results of the 4 games against New Zealand clubs will determine the players for the national team in 2004. It provides the Bears the chance to learn a different style of the game before the Bears annual Victory Cup tournament in Moscow, which also involves Ireland, the United States, France, England and a New Zealand Defence Forces team.

"You play the game quicker than what we do back home and, as a result, we have learnt so many things that the players cannot wait to get back home to try out," Nekrasov said, through an interpreter. The tour has seen the Bears begin with a 16-32 loss to Tasman, before picking up a late 40-32 win over the West Coast on Sunday. The third match of the tour saw the Russians fall 28-36 to Canterbury A in Christchurch on Wednesday night. Despite the results, player Serguei Sidorov was not surprised by how close the games have been. "We have a good, fit side that has players competing hard to stay in the side," he said. The Russian players are mainly students, with two being close to completing law doctorates. In the meantime, his side was enjoying the tour and finding it beneficial, as it had allowed the players to experience how the game is played in New Zealand. Russian wing Oleg Joukov leads the scorers on the tour so far, with 28 points from three games, which includes 12 converted goals. Former Kiwi test coach Bob Bailey is the man in charged with developing this side to the next level. With 20 million people in Moscow alone, Bailey agreed there was a lot of untapped potential to draw on. "If I can just help develop them to a certain extent then someone else can take over after that," said Bailey. "So I'm just looking to get them started with some hard training and a bit of discipline.

"They're big, strong guys. . . but the skills need to be developed. That's what I'm doing now." Bailey has already experienced some success with the Bears before the tour, Bailey coached Russia to a victory over Samoa and some strong performance's at the Sydney world sevens in January this year.

After the World Sevens, two Bears players spent time training with the World Sevens champions Wests Tigers. Add to this the tour,and you can see the Bears putting in a strong performance in this years Victory Cup. In last years Victory Cup, The Bears put up a great fight going down 29-12 to the French before beating the Tomahawks 44-14. Then following that great performance the Bears had a devastating Europeans Cup, conceding 176 points in two match's against Wales and England A. They are now starting promote the game better in their country, with two new teams to the competition, and more players playing the game things could only get better for the Bears.

Before playing Otago on Sunday afternoon at Tahuna Park, the Russian side trained yesterday at Corstorphine Park, between 10am and noon and then between 3pm and 4pm. Between the sessions, the team will was welcomed on to the Araiteuru marae and attend a mayoral reception. The Bears will play a warm-up match against an Otago Invitation XIII at Brooklands Park in Mosgiel today at 2.30pm.

Full credit must be given to NZRL, who have paid for the Russians to come over and tour for the first time in their history to New Zealand. It is great to see one of the bigger playing nations helping out the smaller nations.

Maybe this will become an annual tour, and next time the Russians make the next step up and play Bartercard Cup teams.

Russia vs Tasman

Tasman Orcas 32 (P. Tavite, R. Dixon, T. Ioane, J. Parata, M. Matekohe, V. Maea tries; J. Gunn 4 con) Russia 16 (A. Akhmetshin, R. Yakubov, A. Lysenkov tries; O. Joukov 2 con). HT: 14-6.

Russia vs West Coast

Russia 40 (S. Dobrynine 2, I. Gavrilin 2, V. Trofimov, A. Lysenkov, V. Katerinkchuk tries; O. Joukov 6 goals) West Coast Chargers 32 (B. Sims 2, T. Green, J. Ruddle, P. Nicolls, D. Todd tries; B. Hodgson 4 goals.

The Full touring squad is:

1. Akhmetshin Aidar 2. Baskakov Valentin 3. Bojoukov Evgueni 4. Dobrynine Serguei 5. Fedchuk Vadim 6. Gavrilin Igor 7. Gvozdev Ian 8. Joukov Oleg 9. Chamsoutdinov Rinat 10. Katerinchuk Vitaly 11. Lebedev Vladimir 12. Lysenkov Alexander 13. Makovetski Alexey 14. Mamochka Andrey 15. Mishukov Danila 16. Nechaev Victor 17. Nisiforov Mikhail 18. Ovtchinnikov Roman 19. Ovtchinnikov Vladimir 20. Safiullin Adel 21. Sidorov Serguei 22. Sokolov Oleg 23. Trofimov Vladimir 24. Yakubov Rafael 25. Yamanaev Maxim 26. Zagoskin Nikolay 27. Koulemine Kirill 28. Vinogradov Georgy