Russia will be eyeing up a famous victory this weekend as they aim to cause a shock against Spain in the Estadio Pedro Escartín in Guadalajara.
The Russians are ranked 14th in the world with the hosts 10th while they have never beaten Spain before, but they know that if they can win the Rugby Europe Championship 2020 delayed clash on Saturday then they would be a step closer to the World Cup.
Whoever wins the Rugby Europe Championship 2020 will progress to the European World Cup qualifying event alongside Ireland, Italy and Scotland. The winner of that tournament qualifies automatically for the World Cup, with the runner-up heading to the repêchage.
The winner of that tournament will then go to the showpiece event in New Zealand later this year, although there is a lot of water to go under the bridge before then.
In the only match played in the Rugby Europe Championship 2020 to date last March, Russia claimed a dramatic victory 27-21 in Amsterdam against The Netherlands.
If they can make it two from two they would be uncatchable at the top of the table, but Spain are still the favourites and know that wins this weekend and then next weekend against The Netherlands would see them into the European World Cup qualifying event.
Russia head coach Valerian Bagdasarov, who has lost some players to the sevens because Olympic qualification is still up in the air, said: “Our squad, of course, does not include everyone since 15 girls left for the rugby sevens national team.
“However, in the squad that we have named for this match against Spain there are some good players and some experienced players.
“Our main task on Saturday will be to withstand the Spanish scrum, like the men's team had to when they did pretty well in Tbilisi against Georgia recently. If we can do it too, then our chances will be good to try and win.”
His opposite number José Antonio Barrio said: “Right now our goal is to enjoy every training session and be ready to compete at any moment.
“The European qualification for the World Cup in New Zealand is really tough. One single match will bring you be closer to the World Cup or directly throw you out of contention.
“The first step to get closer to New Zealand is winning against Russia this Saturday. Historically we have beaten them many times, but the whole Covid-19 situation has levelled out the competition.
“We know this match will be a hard one and we are prepared to fight for 80 minutes.”
The match will be live on Rugby Europe TV at 4pm CET on Saturday.
By Gary Heatly
Photos by Helena Lanuza & Russian Rugby Union