Rising Russia seek support
With much talk in the rugby world focused on the inclusion of sevens in the 2016 Olympics, Russia coach Pavel Baranovskiy has called for more government and International Rugby Board support to boost the country's rugby boom and prospects at the Sevens World Cup that will be held in Moscow in two years.
With the 15-a-side national team qualifying for their first ever World Cup later this year in New Zealand, rugby is becoming increasingly popular in Russia and the sevens squad are keen to ride the wave after making an encouraging start in Hong Kong with two wins from three pool games and making the last eight of a world series Cup competition for the first time ever.
But even with 70 per cent of the country's players already professional and former Wales captain Kingsley Jones coaching the 15-a-side national team, Baranovskiy insists support from the government, and the world's governing body, is needed to push the game to the next level.
Rugby Union of Russia president Vyacheslav Kopiev is the sole driving force in the country, who are ranked 18th overall.
'For us, the Sevens World Cup will be a very important event because we want to put Russia on the World Cup stage and it will be a great opportunity. We have a two-year preparation programme and that will start after the World Cup in New Zealand,' Baranovskiy said.
'Rugby has received a lot of publicity recently and we do expect the government will follow suit and we hope the IRB will push forward and talk to people like our Minister of Sport so we can move forward.
'It is first important to make rugby popular at the grass-roots level and then that will bring the idea to the government that it is an important sport that needs support.
'We haven't felt any difference in terms of financial support because all the funding is going to the 15s World Cup, although we expect to get more later.'
Baranovskiy is missing several key players who have been called up to the national squad ahead of their World Cup debut.
Russia eased to a 22-5 win over Kenya on Friday and after putting up a spirited display against Fiji (29-14), they recorded an eight-try 50-0 whitewash of helpless Malaysia to earn a Cup quarter-final meeting with World Series co-leaders England.
Fiji eased into a 17-0 half-time lead, courtesy of a brace from veteran Seremaia Burotu, before tries from Yury Gostyuzhev and Nikolay Zaporzhin closed the gap to just three points midway through the second half. Emosi Vucago's double eventually sealed victory for Fiji, but Russia were able to recover as 15s squad member Vladimir Ostroushko scored four tries in the one-sided win over Malaysia.
'We are very pleased with the results because we set an objective to get into the top eight and the quarter-finals of the Cup,' Baranovskiy said. 'If we could play with teams like Fiji, New Zealand and England every day, we would have already pulled ourselves to their level a long time ago.'
With a 100 per cent pool record after also adding to Friday's demolition of Malaysia with a 40-0 win over Kenya, Fiji will face rising forces South Africa in the Cup quarter-finals as Iliesa Tanivula's side look to gain revenge for last month's defeat in the USA Sevens Cup final in Las Vegas.
'We made a slow start against Russia, but came back and then followed up against Kenya who are always dangerous, but we managed to close them down,' said Tanivula.
'We now have to step it up in the finals. We need to improve our accuracy in the rucks and with our passing. We also need to control our set plays and move forward.'