Soviet Union national rugby union team

Soviet Union national rugby union team

The USSR national rugby union team was a sporting side that represented the Soviet Union in rugby union until the early 1990s.


Although there was the Soviet Cup and the Soviet Championship, rugby never became a major sport in the USSR. Union was the bigger of the two codes though - rugby league only really took off in the former Soviet Union after the collapse of Communism.

Rugby football was played in Russian Empire as early as 1908, however the first official match, played in Moscow, did not take place until 1923. Because of the Russian Revolution, some Soviet/Russian players emigrated and/or ended up playing for foreign sides, a notable example being Prince Alexander Obolensky (Александр Сергеевич Оболенский) who played for Oxford and England in the 1930s - he was the scorer of 2 tries on his England debut in their win over New Zealand in January 1936. His noble birth precluded him from playing in his home country and his family had fled the country when he was only a year old.

In 1934 the Moscow Championship was initiated, followed by the first Soviet Championship which took place in 1936.

In 1949, rugby union was forbidden throughout the USSR during the "fight against cosmopolitanism". Competition was resumed in 1957, and the Soviet Championship recommenced in 1966. In 1975, the Soviet national team played their first ever match. [ [ Rugby union in Russia and USSR] ru icon]

During the 70s and 80s, the Soviet team began to improve their performances, often coming second to France, or third to Romania in various European competitions, however they never managed to beat any major side.

The USSR did not participate in the 1987 Rugby World Cup, which was by invitation rather than qualification, despite successes against teams such as Italy and Romania in the years leading up to the inaugural Cup. The Soviet team also failed to qualify for the 1991 Rugby World Cup finals. The USSR successor, in 1992, was briefly the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The Soviet rugby team visited Ireland and the USA for the first time in 1990 [] [] .

The FIRA Trophy 1974-1997

uccessor teams

The rugby teams of the USSR's successor states have had varying success.

Initially, the former USSR competed under the Commonwealth of Independent States banner, but this itself terminated in 1992. It had played four matches.

The most successful "successor" rugby team has been Georgia, which competed in the 2003 Rugby World Cup and in the 2007. They had a respectable performance against Ireland and defeated Namibia 30-0. The Rugby World Cup, coincidentally, got going at around the point that the Soviet Union was disintegrating - no other ex-Soviet team other than Georgia has ever qualified, and the early World Cups were also smaller tournaments. The Georgia Rugby Union was founded in 1964, but did not compete as a national team during the Soviet Era.

As of 3 March, 2008, however, Russia's form had improved greatly, being placed at 17th position in the world rankings, ahead of Portugal, the USA, Japan, and coming one point behind Romania. [ [ International Rugby Board - Russia closing in on their rivals ] ] All of these other teams have been in the World Cup.


The following successor teams are in the European Nations Cup:

* Armenia national rugby union team
* Azerbaijan national rugby union team
* Latvia national rugby union team
* Lithuania national rugby union team
* Moldova national rugby union team
* Russia national rugby union team
* Ukraine national rugby union team


* Estonia national rugby union team
* Kazakhstan national rugby union team
* Kyrgyzstan national rugby union team
* Uzbekistan national rugby union team


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