Russia have been confirmed as the Europe 2 qualifier for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. They will join Ireland, Australia, Italy and the USA in Pool C.
The Europe 1 and 2 qualifying places were decided on Saturday when Georgia, whom Ireland played in the 2007 Rugby World Cup, ran out convincing 36-8 winners over neighbours Russia to retain the European Nations Cup and take the first RWC qualifying spot.
That means the Georgians have been placed in Pool B. They will face an opening match against Scotland in Dunedin on September 14, 2011 before facing 2003 winners England, the play-off winners and Argentina.
Russia, as European Nations Cup runners-up, qualify as Europe 2 to set up a mouth-watering encounter with USA in their first ever Rugby World Cup match. Ireland, Australia and Italy are their other Pool C opponents.
Ireland will take on tournament newcomers Russia in Rotorua on September 25, 2011 – it will be the third pool match for Declan Kidney’s men.
Ireland and Russia have only played once before at Test level. They met in a Rugby World Cup qualifying match in Krasnoyarsk back in September 2002, with the Irish running out 35-3 winners.
Girvan Dempsey (2), Malcolm O’Kelly and team captain Keith Wood were the visitors’ try scorers and Ronan O’Gara kicked the remaining 15 points.
Of the 22-man squad that was on duty against Scotland on Saturday, O’Gara, Brian O’Driscoll, John Hayes and Leo Cullen are the only four surviving members from the trip to Krasnoyarsk.
Saturday’s European Nations Cup title decider was played on neutral soil in north east Turkey, but the thousands of Georgian fans who had travelled en mass ensured the 6,000-seater Akçabaat Fatih Stadium was awash with red and white flags.
Georgia, roared on by their passionate support, overwhelmed their neighbours in a five-try performance to end the European Nations Cup with 27 points, two more than Russia, having only lost one match across the two-year competition.
During the European Nations Cup, both teams successfully held off strong challenges from previous qualifiers Romania and Portugal to secure the qualifications spots early in the competition.
Interestingly, former Blackrock College and Ireland Schools, Under-19 and Universities winger Vasily Artemiev has been featuring for Russia throughout their successful European Nations Cup campaign.
The 22-year-old has also been making his name on the IRB Sevens World Series circuit this season.
Artemiev, who studied at UCD and was a member of the Leinster Academy, was part of the successful Ireland Schools side that beat England, Wales and France in 2005.
His team-mates back then included current Irish senior squad members Luke Fitzgerald, Keith Earls and Cian Healy.
2011 RUGBY WORLD CUP – POOL C:
IRELAND’S POOL C FIXTURES:
Sunday, September 11 – Ireland v USA, Stadium Taranaki, New Plymouth
Saturday, September 17 – Ireland v Australia, Eden Park, Auckland
Sunday, September 25 – Ireland v Russia, Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua
Sunday, October 2 – Ireland v Italy, Carisbrook, Dunedin