The Russian rugby team may have lost all its games in its first ever World Cup, but left with its head up high with a good performance on and off the field, Team Director Kingsley Jones said on Thursday.
The Bears had a not entirely unexpected straight run of defeats – going down 13-6 to the USA, 53-17 to Italy, 62-12 to Ireland and 68-22 to Australia.
They managed some sparkling periods however, including a second-half when they scored three tries against Australia, who were rated second in the world prior to the tournament.
“Scoring three tries against Australia and Italy, two against Ireland and being awarded one of the tries of the tournament during the game against Ireland, that’s very positive,” he said.
“I went into it thinking I’d be happy if we got some tries. I think if we’d defeated the USA, which was within our reach, we’d have said it was highly successful,” Jones said. “The USA are a good side and we’ve never really beaten them in a test match that counts.”
The relative inexperience of the side was its biggest handicap, Jones said.
“Our biggest problem was starting – the guys were in awe of some of these teams and it showed,” he said. “The Australia first-half was really disappointing to me (score 47-5) but how do these players get self-belief without playing against the likes of these teams? But the second half showing was fantastic and we finished very strongly.”
Jones is pleased with how the team got better during the tour, he said.
“We learned a lot about ourselves. A lot of players came of age and improved as the tour went on.”
The team lived up to their name of the Bears as far as the physical side of the game went, Jones said.
“They are as fit as any side in the tournament – they showed that,” he said. “Putting in over two hundred tackles against the USA and Italy was very impressive. Some teams collapsed in the last twenty minutes but we didn’t do that.”
The team were great ambassadors for Russia and were well received off the field, Jones said.
“We didn’t have any issues off the field like England did, for example. They went to local communities and schools and met the local people. I don’t think we were the worst team in the tournament and we won a lot of friends.”