September 19, 2019 / 11:28 AM / 24 days ago

Russia hope physicality can make them party-poopers in World Cup opener

TOKYO (Reuters) - Russia are determined not to be seen as a side story in the opening match of the Rugby World Cup against Japan on Friday and are hopeful they can use their physical strength to upset the hosts.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup - Russia's Captain's Run - Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - September 19, 2019. Russia's team members attend a training session. Picture taken with slow shutter speed. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Led by Welshman Lyn Jones, the Russians come into the tournament ranked 20th in the world and without a World Cup win in their only previous appearance in 2011.

Despite Japan being heavy favourites to start their home World Cup with a win, Russia should be encouraged by their performance in the narrow 32-27 loss to Jamie Joseph’s side when the teams met last year.

Knowing that Japan’s game is built on spreading the ball wide and attacking with dynamism, Russia hope to spoil the party by playing a match based on contact and physical forward play.

“Obviously, we are more physical and more aggressive than we were in November,” said assistant coach Alexander Voytov.

“Tomorrow’s match will be very physical and the players will take advantage of their physical strengths of speed and strength, particularly in the scrum and ruck.

“That is what we have been focusing on.”

Russia, who lost their most recent warm-up match 85-15 to Italy, are only in Japan after Romania and Spain were disqualified from European qualification for fielding ineligible players.

Prop Valery Morozov is determined to prove the Russians deserve their place at the top table.

“In terms of tomorrow’s match, which is so important, so we need to show we deserve to be in this match and we want to deliver on all of our hard work in training,” he said.

Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Toby Davis

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