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Adam Byrnes: I hope I can continue to represent Russia for as long as I play rugby

Australian-born rugby player of the Russian national team Adam Byrnes shared his impressions of his recent visit to Moscow and spoke about the prospects for the development of rugby in Russia.

«I remember listening to the Australian anthem in a Moscow pub before the Wallabies played the Springboks and I took note of the opening words that previously I had given no real thought to, «Australians all let us rejoice for we are young and free.» Having just spent a week in Moscow these words had a special meaning for me. It refers to something that I, like many Australians take for granted, our freedom, lifestyle and carefree way…we are a very lucky nation.

Moscow has seen a lot of change in the last 15 years since I was there last and today it is similar to other European cities, however its authoritarian history is still embedded in their culture and daily lives. (…) That being said there are good and bad aspects of every society and I certainly enjoyed my time in Moscow.

Moving forward, I predict that the Russian Rugby team is going to cause some upsets against major rugby nations in the future. It is not a matter of if, but how soon. It could be in 4 years or it could be in 24 years, but the Russian Bears will win big rugby matches.

This is because the game is ideally suited to the Russians. Russia does have ice hockey, but it does not have any other form of a contact ball sport. Everyone keeps talking about the huge potential of rugby in Russia and it is real.

The main factor is that rugby in the 7’s format will be an Olympic event from 2016. Russia concentrate heavily on Olympic sports and there will be a big emphasis on winning medals in rugby…the Russian 7’s team have already tasted success.

Another contributing factor is the nature and physique of the Russian people. They are a proud people who are strong, athletic and tough. If you combine these factors with a massive population, you begin to understand why Russian rugby will be big.

At the moment the organisation is not comparable to other professional rugby union teams. It is a question of where do you start and how much are you willing to spend? They have started with a competent coaching team, if they can hang onto them it will be a good start. But you need more than a couple of quality coaches. These days the management, medical and strength/conditioning teams are all as important as the coaches.

What Russian Rugby also needs are more competitive games against quality opposition, the only way to get better is to be exposed to the best…not just every 4 years. The IRB need to invest in rugby in Russia, not just in a financial sense but also by giving them regular games against high class opposition. It is difficult, but addressing this will go a long way to expanding rugby globally.

Hopefully all the right ingredients are put together soon and I hope I can continue to represent the Bears for as long as I play rugby…I have already penciled in the next World Cup as my last hurrah. To everyone involved with Russian rugby, I am forever thankful for the opportunity. I hope I can continue to contribute both on and off the field,» Byrnes wrote in his blog on the Melbourne Rebels’ official website.

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