USA v Russia, Rugby World Cup, September 15
Russia set for World Cup bow
ESPNscrum Staff
September 13, 2011
Ireland's Geordan Murphy is halted by Todd Clever, Ireland v USA Eagles, Rugby World Cup, New Plymouth, New Zealand, September 11, 2011
US Eagles captain Todd Clever was key in stopping Ireland © Getty Images

Russia will make their Rugby World Cup debut against the United States in New Plymouth on Thursday.

Russia Team director Kingsley Jones insists there is a growing sense of anticipation back in Russia ahead of their first appearance in the global showpiece and there is a determination within the squad to capitalise on this opportunity to promote the game.

While the Eagles were pushing Ireland to the brink at Yarrow Stadium, eventually losing 22-10, Russia were preparing for their opening match in Pool C. Their last competitive encounter was against the Americans in the Churchill Cup when they lost 32-25 and 13 of the starting XV from that game survive to take on the Eagles once again.

The clash comes quickly for the United States after beginning their World Cup campaign against Ireland in a physically and emotionally demanding match on Sunday. Despite the short preparation time, Eagles coach Eddie O'Sullivan makes just three changes as they target a fourth successive victory over their rivals.

USA - Player to Watch: Chris Wyles, the Saracens utility back, comes into the starting XV and will be looking combine well with dangerous wingers Takudzwa Ngwenya and James Paterson.

USA - Team News: O'Sullivan makes three changes to the team that narrowly lost to Ireland. Saracens back Chris Wyles taking over at fullback from Blaine Scully, who drops to the bench. Up front Chris Biller gets the nod at hooker ahead of Phil Tiel and Matekitonga Moeakiola is preferred to Shawn Pittman at tight-head prop.

Russia - Player to Watch: Vasily Artemyev, who signed for the Northampton Saints over the summer, scored against the United States last time out in the Churchill Cup and boasts a scoring record of nine tries in 25 internationals.

Russia - Team News: Head coach Nikolay Nerush makes two changes from the team that lost to the United States in the Churchill Cup. Konstantin Rachkov has been preferred to Mikhail Babav alongside Alexey Makovetskiy in midfield, while Artem Fatakhov replaces Andrey Temnov in the back-row, a change which sees Andrey Garbuzov switch flanks, moving from the openside to the blindside.

Key Battle: US Eagles captain Todd Clever is an influential figure at openside flanker for O'Sullivan's team. He secured turnovers, gained metres and made 11 tackles against Ireland, meaning 32-year-old flanker Artem Fatakhov, who comes into Russia's side, will need to utilise all his experience in the potentially crucial battle of the No.7s.

Trivia: Russia's only victory over the United States came in the first meeting between the two nations in September 1988 - Russia winning 31-16

Stats: Russia's most capped player, prop Alexander Khrokhin, and their leading international try scorer, Andrey Kuzin, are both on the bench

Quote Unquote:

"Our debut in this competition is huge. The eyes of the world are on us. The match will be on the main TV channel. This can take the game in Russia to the next level. There's huge interest." - Russia team director Kingsley Jones.

"It's not an ideal situation to turn around in four days but we knew this would be the landscape. Russia will be fresh and there's a debate over whether having had a game will work in our favour or against us." - United States coach Eddie O'Sullivan

Prediction: The United States to continue their successful run against Russia after coming through a tight game in New Plymouth

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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