Rugby minnows Russia have surprisingly entered the race to host the 2027 World Cup after Argentina dropped out of the contest that Australia are favourites to win. Buoyed by their on-pitch performances at the recent World Cup in Japan, Russian rugby authorities – backed by President Vladimir Putin – believe they have the ability to stage the tournament in seven years’ time in a country that had its sports stadiums upgraded for the successful staging of the 2018 football World Cup. 

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Founded in 1992, the Rugby Federation of Russia have recently upgraded its club professional league and it now hopes the improving momentum behind the sport in the Eastern European country can ensure it is ready to win a World Cup host decision that will be taken by World Rugby in May 2022. 

A story on the Russian rugby federation’s website stated: “On July 24, the supreme council of the Russian Rugby Federation established a committee to prepare an application to host the Rugby World Cup in Russia in 2027.

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“Anticipating the creation of the committee, chairman of the supreme council of the Russian Rugby Federation, Igor Artemyev, said that the initiative to prepare an application to host the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Russia was supported by the President of Russia (Putin) at the council for the development of physical culture and sports, and the necessary consultations were held with the participation of the Ministry of Sports RF.

“There is an order from the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Chernyshenko, to the Ministry of Sports of the Russian Federation to quickly work out and report on the issue of Russia’s participation in the bid campaign for the World Cup in 2027.

“The start of the bid campaign for the 2027 World Cup was postponed to February next, 2021. The final decision will be made by World Rugby in May 2022. By the end of this year, detailed information and criteria for the application are expected.”

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It was last September, prior to Russia’s opening match at the World Cup versus Japan, that now-retired team captain Vasily Artemyev told RugbyPass about the progress rugby was making on the ground in his country. “We don’t have any direct presence of the president [Putin] at our games or anything like that, but if he does say a few words of support it would be broadcast on all the channels instantly and would bring good PR for rugby. 

“Igor Artemyev is a figure high up on the political scene in his role and the positive changes that have been happening over the last two years have basically all happened after Igor took over this new rugby role. There has been some good influx of funding towards the clubs and the championship will be expanded to 10 for the first time.

“It’s eight teams now and it was only like six semi-pro teams a few years ago. There is good movement in the right direction and the World Cup will give it another impulse. We’re on the right track and hoping to raise public awareness, to make rugby more interesting and fascinating for people to watch and try out. The rugby union has been working hard to make it available to kids to try and there has been a programme the last few years re-introducing rugby back into the military services as well.

“The primary objective is to grow and develop the local championship because 95 per cent of national team players currently play in the Russian league. The more we can improve the league and the level of intensity of games, the better outcome we will get in terms of players’ preparation to be competing at Test level.”

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