Russia playing same 23 vs Samoa just 4 days after RWC loss
KUMAGAYA, Japan (AP) — Russia has set itself up to be plucked by Samoa in the Rugby World Cup on Tuesday in the Bears' first match against a Pacific Islands side.
The Russians haven't met Samoa, Fiji or Tonga before, but they have seemingly hindered themselves at their first chance.
Given only a four-day turnaround, Russia surprisingly picked the same side which lost to Japan in the tournament opener last Friday.
That's the same side which started blowing against Japan in the third quarter, according to 95-cap reserve lock Andrey Garbuzov, and went on to lose 30-10.
"We got tired by the 50th minute," Garbuzov said. "Probably, it was worth making more substitutions between minutes 50 and 60, but it's up to coaches to decide on that."
Russia coach Lyn Jones admitted after the Japan match they needed fresh legs, but he decided the same 23 players can handle a fresh Samoa.
"Everybody played really well and deserved an opportunity against Samoa," Jones said.
Loosehead prop Valery Morozov has a twisted ankle and will need to pass a fitness test on Monday.
Russia scrumhalf Vasily Dorofeev hoped having a game under their belts will be to their advantage. They are still seeking their first World Cup win.
"We can improve throughout the competition," Dorofeev said. "I hope the second game will be much luckier for us."
Flanker Vitaly Zhivatov added: "A four-day break is rather short but we knew about that before coming here, so we were mentally ready for that. After each game we have a recovery plan. Emotions will let us forget any pain."
Pain is likely coming from the Samoans, who have 12 wins at the World Cup, and the kind of pace that found Russia wanting out wide.
Captain Jack Lam needed a few more days of recovery, coach Steve Jackson said. Lam collided with teammate Alapati Leiua in the Wallabies test and the vision in his right eye was affected.
"I was seeing about 30 different Wallabies players so I was a bit of a liability to my team," he said. "So I had to make a call and come off the field."
In the absence of Lam, England-based flanker Chris Vui has the captaincy.
"It's just a 'C' to my name," Vui said, then added, "It's a big honor."
Vui was one of five England-based players brought in to upgrade the side after losing to Australia 34-15 two weeks ago. The others were prop Logovii Mulipola, hooker Motu Matu'u, scrumhalf Dwayne Polataivao, and winger Ah See Tuala.
At 37 years, 268 days, flyhalf Tusi Pisi will surpass late captain Peter Fatialofa as the oldest Samoan to play at a Rugby World Cup. Pisi also needs 10 more points to overtake Silao Leaega as the leading point-scorer for Samoa at World Cups.
Samoa: Tim Nanai-Williams, Ah See Tuala, Alapati Leiua, Rey Lee-Lo, Ed Fidow, Tusi Pisi, Dwayne Polataivao; Afaesetiti Amosa, TJ Ioane, Chris Vui (captain), Kane Le'aupepe, Teofilo Paulo, Michael Alaalatoa, Motu Matu'u, Logovii Mulipola. Reserves: Ray Niuia, Paul Alo-Emile, Jordan Lay, Senio Toleafoa, Josh Tyrell, Melani Matavao, AJ Alatimu, Henry Taefu.
Russia: Vasily Artemyev (captain), German Davydov, Vladimir Ostroushko, Dmitry Gerasimov, Kirill Golosnitskiy, Yury Kushnarev, Vasily Dorofeev; Nikita Vavilin, Tagir Gadzhiev, Vitaly Zhivatov, Bogdan Fedotko, Andrey Ostrikov, Kirill Gotovtsev, Stanislav Selskii, Valery Morozov. Reserves: Evgeny Matveev, Andrei Polivalov, Azamat Bitiev, Andrey Garbuzov, Anton Sychev, Dmitry Perov, Ramil Gaisin, Vladislav Sozonov.