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Russian captain to play first Premiership game since war outbreak

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Russian rugby skipper Kirill Gotovtsev is set to play his first Gallagher Premiership match for Gloucester since the outbreak of the Ukrainian war on February 20. The tighthead captained his country in their 25-34 defeat to Romania in Bucharest on February 5 but Russia were soon banned from the Rugby Europe Championship after the authorities took action following their army’s incursion into Ukraine. 

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Gotovtsev returned from Bucharest to feature for Gloucester off the Premiership bench in their February 12 defeat at Exeter, but this weekend’s match at Kingsholm will be his first outing in seven weeks. 

A Gloucester statement said: “There is an exciting list of replacements with Ben Morgan and Kirill Gotovtsev both set to feature off the bench after time away with injury.”

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It was last April when the 34-year-old Siberian-born prop, who started three matches at the 2019 World Cup in Japan, was unveiled as a new Gloucester signing for the 2021/22 season, joining from Krasny Yar Krasnoyarsk. 

Chief operating officer Alex Brown said at the time. “Kirill has been a consistent performer for Russia over the last few years. He is an extremely powerful scrummager, and dominant ball carrier and he will add to our resources in the front row.”

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Gotovtsev has played 16 times for Gloucester since his arrival in England, 14 times in the Premiership, and in a January interview with the Daily Mail, the former wrestler said: “I came to Gloucester in 2015 for a pre-season camp with Krasnoyarsk. I played some pre-season games with the first team playing against the second team of Bristol, Gloucester, Harlequins, Sale Sharks. Wow.

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“I played in the back-row then. It was beautiful. In that moment I thought, ‘I want to play rugby in the UK’. After the 2019 World Cup, I had lots of invitations from European clubs. When Gloucester connected with me I thought, Wow!'”

Gotovtsev will now take his place in a Gloucester matchday 23 that includes Georgian Val Rapava-Ruskin as the starting loosehead. 

Gloucester (vs Wasps, Saturday)
15. Kyle Moyle; 14. Santiago Carreras, 13. Chris Harris, 12. Mark Atkinson, 11. Louis Rees-Zammit; 10. Adam Hastings, 9. Ben Meehan; 1. Val Rapava-Ruskin, 2. Jack Singleton, 3. Fraser Balmain, 4. Freddie Clarke, 5. Matias Alemanno, 6. Jordy Reid, 7. Lewis Ludlow (capt), 8. Ruan Ackermann. Resp: 16. Santiago Socino, 17. Harry Elrington, 18. Kirill Gotovtsev, 19. Andrew Davidson, 20. Ben Morgan, 21. Charlie Chapman, 22. Billy Twelvetrees, 23. Tom Seabrook. 

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