The credibility of the World Cup was dented on Tuesday when an English Championship club beat 2019 finalists Russia in their own Moscow back yard.
The Russians, who qualified for the finals on the back of the eligibility row that wrecked the 2018 Six Nations B championship in 2018, weren’t even supposed to be playing Jersey as they were initially scheduled to face Eastern European rivals Georgia.
However, amid fears about safety in travelling to Tbilisi, the Russians cancelled that Test fixture and were instead left with egg on their face 23 days before they open the 2019 World Cup by taking on host nation Japan in the first match of the tournament in Tokyo.
The Slava Stadium wasn’t supposed to be a scene for a big upset, but the Russians were unable to cope with a first-half Jersey onslaught which laid the foundation for a deserved 35-22 win by the lower league English side.
Among the early blows in a contest where the visitors outscored the hosts by five tries to four was an opportunistic score by Luc Jones, the son of Russia boss Lyn who could only watch in anguish from the sidelines as the Jersey scrum-half took possession from the base of a scrum outside the 22 and raced on to regather his own chip kick over the defence.
— Jersey Reds (@jerseyrfc) August 27, 2019
Jersey led 28-12 at the break and while the Russians, who also face Ireland, Scotland and Samoa at the finals, were better in the second half, there was no denying the islanders a famous win over a country ranked 20th in the world heading to Japan.
It was the second big setback for Russia in recent weeks as they were walloped 85-15 by 13-try Italy in Trento and their lack of form should leave World Rugby administrators concerned about the competitiveness of the lowest ranked countries who will be making up the numbers in Japan.
'When the Russian anthem was played, you couldn't hear a note. That's how hostile the crowd was.' https://t.co/CVy3wjlzvR
— liam heagney (@heagneyl) February 3, 2019
The anxiety about the Russians follows last weekend’s home 38-35 defeat in Ontario for Canada, who are ranked 21st, by a second-string Leinster side who are still in the very early stages of their PRO14 pre-season.
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