By Greg Stutchbury
SHIZUOKA, Japan (Reuters) – Russia’s final World Cup game against Scotland on Wednesday is an opportunity for the team to raise the profile and spur development of the sport back home, assistant coach Alexander Voytov said.
Russia will be the first team to wrap up their campaign in Japan after their Pool A match against the Scots, who must win in Shizuoka to remain in contention for the quarter-finals ahead of their last match with Japan on Sunday.
The Russians have lost all three of their games so far but Voytov, a former lock who played 73 matches for the ‘Bears’ and was in their 2011 World Cup squad, was hopeful their final game would be a catalyst for the sport to grow.
“We started developing rugby very fast now in Russia but we have a lack of coaches,” he told reporters in Shizuoka on Tuesday.
“Yes we invite a lot of foreign coaches but we need a lot of young Russian coaches,” added the 37-year-old, who retired from the national side in 2014.
“In our team we have a lot of players who are finishing their careers and the main thing is that when they go back to Russia and their clubs they will spread this knowledge about.
“Hopefully after the tournament some of them will become coaches because they now know how to work at the top level and what they need to achieve and can show by example.
“That will be the biggest step up for us in our development.”
Russia only qualified for the World Cup after Romania, Belgium and Spain were deducted points for fielding ineligible players but they have been difficult to break down in Japan and showed they can compete at the highest level.
While all of their team play professionally — the majority in their domestic league — their tactics have been centred around a combative pack and conservative kicking game.
Voytov, however, was keen for his players to show they could play attacking, running rugby against Scotland.
“This tournament has shown that we can keep the ball but … preparing for Scotland we have mainly focussed on playing with the ball and keeping it in hand,” Voytov said.
“(Of course) we will maintain our defence and stick to our plan but try and use the ball and play a bit wider.”
Inside centre Dmitry Gerasimov was glad the coaches had decided to let them loose in their final game.
“This is the World Cup and we have scored just the one try,” he said through an interpreter. “The rest of the points are penalties.
“We want to show what we believe we can do in our rugby.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)