Russia create history with RWC qualification

(RUGBYWORLDCUP.COM) Sunday 28 February 2010
Russia create history with RWC qualification
Sheer elation: What qualifying for Rugby World Cup 2011 means to Russia - Photo: Maria Anderson

Russia may not have got the victory they were searching for against Romania on Saturday, but the 21-21 draw in Sochi was enough to qualify for a Rugby World Cup for the first time in their history.

The draw takes Russia to 21 points in the European Nations Cup 2010 standings, two points behind neighbours Georgia who also confirmed their place at Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand this weekend with a 17-9 victory over Spain.

With two matches still to play in the top tier, Russia will post a minimum of 23 points even if they lose to both Germany and Georgia, with a point awarded for a loss in the European Nations Cup which spans two seasons.

This is a tally reachable by either Portugal or Romania if they win their remaining games, but Russia would still finish second if they did end up level on 23 points as they have the superior record, having beaten Portugal twice and the Romanians once.

Russia, though, do not yet know their opponents at Rugby World Cup 2011 and may not whether they qualify as Europe 1 or Europe 2 until they meet Georgia on neutral soil in the Turkish city of Trabzon on 20 March.

The European Nations Cup champion will qualify as Europe 1 and join Argentina, England, Scotland and the Play-off winner in Pool B in New Zealand, the runner-up slotting into Pool C with Australia, Ireland, Italy and USA.

Two places remain at RWC 2011

Alexander Gvozdovskiy was the hero for Russia with two tries against the Oaks, Yuri Kushnarev converting one of the wing's tries and kicking three penalties in the draw which puts Romania's ever-present attendance at Rugby World Cups at threat.

With Georgia and Russia claiming the region's two direct places to Rugby World Cup 2011, the battle is now on to finish third in the European Nations Cup to keep alive hopes of making the trip to New Zealand.

Romania currently lie fourth with 14 points, three behind Portugal although they do have a game in hand after their match with Spain earlier this month was postponed due to snow and freezing conditions in Bucharest.

The Romanians had briefly climbed above Portugal in the standings on Saturday, but their emphatic 69-0 victory over Germany at the Kultur-und Sportzentrum Martinsee in Heusenstamm took Tomaz Morais' charges back into third.

Whoever finishes third, be it Portugal or Romania, will then meet either Lithuania or the winner of Division 2A on a home and away basis for the right to enter the cross-continental play-off to determine the 20th and final qualifier for RWC 2011.

This European side will first have to overcome Tunisia and then the winner of Uruguay's encounter with the HSBC Asian Five Nations runner-up. Portugal are no stranger to this route, having qualified for their first Rugby World Cup in 2007 with a one-point aggregate win over Uruguay.

The other place at Rugby World Cup 2011 - the Asian qualifier - will be determined by the end of May with the HSBC Asian Five Nations winner to join hosts New Zealand, France, Tonga and Canada in Pool A.