Russia hope for 'giant leap'
Russia hope for 'giant leap'SHARE
Russia are hoping its hosting of World Cup Sevens will be a "giant step" for the sport in a country where it is only just starting to arouse national interest, the Russian rugby chief said.
Vyacheslav Kopyov, the head of the Russia's Union, told AFP he was hoping that Russian men's and women's teams will perform well at the World Cup Sevens, which will take place at Moscow's Luzhniki stadium on June 28-30.
"This year is a very special year for the Russian rugby," Kopyov said after the draw in Moscow which put the Russian men in a tough group with Scotland, South Africa and Japan.
"This year we celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Russian rugby and I believe that both our squads will have success at the World Cup in Moscow."
"Success at home will be a giant step ahead in rising the popularity of rugby in Russia."
The popularity of rugby in Russia lags far behind that of football with the country's top clubs clustered tightly around the Moscow region and central Siberia.
The first official match was played under Bolshevik rule in 1923, after the early stages of the sport was largely frowned upon by the Tsarist rule. But it also never enjoyed full acceptance under Communism.
The national team has become increasingly competitive in recent years and has produced some players of note, such as Vasily Artemyev who plays for Northampton in England.
After making their maiden appearance at the 15-a-side 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, Russia will be hoping in Moscow to win its pass to the 2016 Olympic Games tournament where sevens will be an Olympic sport for the first time.
"We already have the winning experience in the matches with our group opponents Scotland and Japan," Russian sevens team skipper Alexander Yanyushkin told AFP.
"I hope we will be able to repeat it on our home ground."
"South Africa are without doubt our group's favourite but we should never be afraid of anybody, if we want to achieve something serious. Playing at home is the best possible chance for it."
Yanyushkin said that Russia's sevens squad has been rocked by an avalanche of injuries, which prevented the squad's manager from fielding a full-strength line-up in recent friendly matches.
He however expressed his hope that Russia would manage to assemble a competitive team for the World Cup in June.
"I'd say that if my teammates overcome their injuries and we manage to assemble a full-strength team we can go really far in this World Cup," he said.
"We all understand pretty well that we desperately need a success in this tournament to make rugby more popular in Russia."
"It's not easy as some of the country's regions are snow-covered for six months a year. But we all love rugby and are trying hard to attract the fans' attention to this game."
The women's team captain Anastasia Mukharyamova meanwhile expressed her satisfaction with the World Cup draw, which put the hosts into the group together with England, France and Japan.
"There are no obviously weak teams in the World Cup draw but we should be ready to battle with anybody," she said. "Especially at our home turf. We all will give everything we have for victory."