- Soviet Union national rugby union team
The USSR national rugby union team was a sporting side that represented the
Soviet Unionin rugby unionuntil 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 leagueonly 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 Championshipwhich 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. [ [http://www.russianrugby.ru/history.php?Id=RUS 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 Cupfinals. The USSR successor, in 1992, was briefly the Commonwealth of Independent States.
The Soviet rugby team visited
Irelandand the USA for the first time in 1990 [http://www.clonmelrfc.com/history.html] [http://www.newyorkrugby.com/content/view/45/142/] .
The FIRA Trophy 1974-1997
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 Cupand 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 Unionwas 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. [ [http://www.irb.com/rankings/news/newsid=2022476.html#russia+closing+their+rivals 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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