Rebels lock Byrnes set for Russia bow
August 23, 2011
Captain and hooker Vladislav Korshunov will spearhead the Bears' Rugby World Cup challenge © Getty Images
Melbourne Rebels lock Adam Byrnes is one of two uncapped players included in Russia's 30-man squad for next month's Rugby World Cup.
The 30-year-old Byrnes joins fullback Denis Simplikevich as the new faces in a squad boasting a mix of youth and experience with hooker Vladislav Korshunov set to lead the side on their World Cup debut.
Australian-born Byrnes qualifies for Russia thanks to ancestry with both the forward's maternal grandparents being born in the USSR. The 20-year-old Simplikevich, the youngest player in the squad, first came to notice with a series of standout performances in the IRB's Junior World Rugby Trophy in 2010 and backed that up with a series of try-scoring appearances in the 2011 edition of the tournament.
The group also includes wing Andrey Kuzin, who needs one cap to equal USSR legend Igor Mironov's all-time most-capped record. It also features the country's two most-capped forwards - Alexey Khrokin and Viatcheslav Grachev, and another four players on more than 50 caps. A further three could reach that milestone in pool play.
Youth has also been given its chance with Denis Antonov and Mikhail Sidorov two of an extremely promising batch of young Moscow players to be given their chances to shine on the sport's biggest stage. The Slava pair are two of three forwards to have won less than five caps, the third being Novokuznetsk hooker Valeriy Tsnobiladze.
The oldest is Grachev - named as vice-captain, and at 38 he is the oldest player to feature in a RWC 2011 squad. If he takes to the field in New Zealand, Grachev will become the second oldest-ever RWC participant.
One player to miss out on selection is Russia's only French Top 14 player Kirill Kulemin, who has failed to recover in time from an injury suffered early in the year. However, there are still five foreign-based players in the squad: Byrnes (Australia), Northampton Saints wing Vasily Artemyev, Sale Sharks lock Andrey Ostrikov (both England), Grachev (France), and Konstantin Rachkov, the current Russia-only record points scorer, who plays for Jonah Lomu's Stade Phocéen in Marseille (France).
There are also some familiar faces within the management team that is led by head coach Nikolay Nerush. Former Sale boss Kingsley Jones is Team Director, dual code international Henry Paul is the backs coach and British & Irish Lion Darren Morris is a new appointment as scrum coach.
The majority of the squad is taken from Russia's professional domestic league and five Super League clubs are represented in the squad, testament to the increasing depth of quality across the country.
Five-time defending champion VVA-Podmoskovye from Moscow Region will be sending 13 players to New Zealand, meaning the team from Monino - population 22,000 - will be providing the largest number of players by any single club side in the world, although it is equalled by provincial side Leinster, from Group C rivals Ireland.
Russia have the shortest schedule of any time in New Zealand, and will play its four pool games in 16 days, starting on September 15 against the USA. Games follow against Italy (September 20), Ireland (September 25), and Australia (October 1).
Forwards: Denis Antonov, Vladimir Botvinnikov, Adam Byrnes, Artem Fatakhov, Andrei Garbuzov, Vyacheslav Grachev, Viktor Gresev, Alexander Khrokin, Vladislav Korshunov, Yevgeny Matveyev, Andrei Ostrikov, Sergei Popov, Ivan Prishchepenko, Mikhail Sidorov, Alexei Travkin, Valery Tsnobiladze, Alexander Voitov
Backs: Vasili Artemyev, Mikhail Babayev, Andrei Bykanov, Igor Galinovsky, Igor Klyuchnikov, Yuri Kushnarev, Andrei Kuzin, Alexei Makovetsky, Vladimir Ostroushko, Konstantin Rachkov, Alexander Shakirov, Denis Simplikevich, Alexander Yanyushkin.
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