Blues v. Russia: The Lowdown

@CherwellSport will be live-tweeting the match this Sunday – kick off at 3pm    

A short history lesson

Oxford rugby has had a Russian connection since the days of Prince Alexander Sergeevich Obolensky. His name may not be immediately familiar but the Rurikid prince, who became a naturalised Briton and went on to represent England in internationals in the 1930s, earned himself two full blues on the rugby fields of Iffley.

Since Obolensky, there had been a modest lull in Russo-Oxford rugby collaboration but after a connection forged in late 2009, OURFC has enjoyed two tours and is in the process of organising a third to Russia. In 2010 the Blues took their pre-season to Moscow, where Rocky -style fitness training was interspersed with cultural excursions to the ‘Gremlin’, the Russian Space Centre and a drinks reception at the British Embassy.

The second half of the 2010 tour involved an overnight trip on the trans-Siberian railway to Kazan (home of the 2013 World University Games) where the Blues had the honour of opening a newly build Rugby stadium in preparation for 2013.

In 2011 the Blues ventured further east to Siberian city Krasnoyarsk. This was a truly memorable tour for all involved as the Blues once again put a successful pre-season training programme into place with back to back Russian tours resulting in back to back Varsity Match victories for the first time in many years.

OURFC hosted the Russian national team at Iffley Road last year, with the Blues just losing out 15 – 29. This year the Russians return with another full strength International side, fully deserving of their IRB World Ranking of 19th.

Match Preview

It is a very rare thing for a university side to play a fully-fledged International side in any sport, much rarer for it to be a major sport, and almost unheard of for it to be on your door step.

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On Sunday 10th November at 3pm, Oxford University Blues will face, to borrow a perplexed New College undergraduate’s phrase, “the whole of Russia.”

The Russian Bears start their Autumn International Test series with a fixture at Iffley road against the Blues. With an IRB World Ranking of #19, the full International Russian side will provide the Blues with a stern test in their lead up to The Varisty Match at Twickenham on 12th December.

Russia participated in the World Cup in 2011, and didn’t look out of place against the likes of Six Nations teams Italy and Ireland. They arrive in the UK beginning a three Test series against Oxford, Japan and old rivals, the USA.

Following their plucky defeat to Worcester Warriors, this will be another massive test for the Blues.

Entry for the match is £2 for students, or free if you have been lucky enough to get your hands on the limited number of tickets being given out around the University. For the Blues, this will be a test match in every sense of the word, and will prove a key point in their journey to Twickenham. Head coach James Wade is in the fortunate position to have the opportunity to select as close to a full strength team as one can expect at this stage in the season.

Come along to support your University against a country of 142 million.

One to Watch

Russia’s Vasily Artemyev channels Prince Obolensky, as Russia’s current flying winger. Currently plying his trade with the Aviva Premiership’s Northampton Saints, OURF’s defence will need to be on their guard for this man’s tricky running.

A man with a broad Irish accent gained from studying in the Emerald Isle, Artemyev made a lightning start to his Saints career with a hat-trick against Saracens, and has impressed with nine tries in two seasons for his club.

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Internationally, the winger has been a key component of the Russia side which gave Australia a scare during the 2011 World Cup, whilst he was vital to a string of impressive Churchill Cup performances.

A law graduate, we can be sure that Artemyev has the intelligence to challenge our students; it remains to be seen if the Blues have the wherewithal to stop him.

Head to Head Stats

 

Oxford University

Russia

Population

21000

142,501,000

Surface Area km2

45.5

17,098,242

GDP $ (millions)

13

2,555,000

Soldiers

300

1,040,000

Rugby Players

648

21,670

Rugby Clubs

34

365

IRB World Cup Qualifications

2