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banner Tuesday, 17 October, 2000, 13:03 GMT 14:03 UK
From Russia with Australians
Ian Rubin and Wendell Sailor will lock horns again
Ian Rubin and Wendell Sailor will lock horns again
By BBC Sport Online's Pranav Soneji

The Russians are coming! Only this time it looks like they won't be as menacing as their predecessors.

Minnows is not a word usually associated with Russia, but it accurately depicts their plight in the World Cup, especially with the two world giants in the game, Australia and England, in their group.

For a nation who only discovered the game during the mid-1980s and played its first international in 1991 against France, their elevation into the full World Cup surprised everyone, including coach Eugene Klebanov.

But with bookmakers William Hill offering odds of 7,500-1 for the Russians to lift the Lincoln Rugby World Cup, there's probably more chance of another October revolution than them making November's knock-out phase.

But the ever-resourceful Russians have a few aces up their sleeves... or Australians to be exact.

Invasion

The man leading the Russian invasion is Ian Rubin, experienced prop forward with the Sydney Roosters and widely acknowledged as one of the best players in his position.

"Rubs", his predictable nickname from his Rooster team-mates, was born in Odessa (now part of the Ukraine), but emigrated with his parents to Australia when he was four.

The 27-year-old is also accompanied by six other players making their living Down Under, all of whom have Russian ancestry.

Robert Campbell, Craig Cygler, Matthew Donovan, Joel Rullis, Michael Goirgas and Aaron Findlay will all be vying to make their World Cup debuts at Craven park against Fiji on 28 October.

One Australian who slipped through the fine net was Penrith Panthers full-back Peter Jorgensen, one of the leading try-scorers in last season's NRL campaign.

Jorgensen, who fulfilled the criteria to play for Russia, withdrew because the World Cup clashed with his forthcoming wedding.

But Russian coach Eugene Klebanov can also call on the services of another overseas player, stand-off Andre Olari, who enjoyed a successful season with Toulouse last season.

Minority

Olari is in the minority amongst his fellow team-mates in that he has actually experienced international rugby league before.

He represented Moldova in the Emerging Nations tournament in 1995.

However, one embarrassing moment Klebanov encountered was his attempt to incorporate the Slavic-sounding Clinton Schifcofske of the Canberra Raiders into his squad.

It transpired the former Parramatta Eels player was actually of Polish heritage, rather than Russian.

The Schifcofske debacle outlines the eagerness of the Russians to incorporate as many professionals as possible to improve their ridiculously slim chance of making the next stage.

The bulk of Klebanov's squad are drawn from Moscow clubs Spartak and Locomotiv, including their most experienced player, Igor Gavriilin.

The scrum-half was amongst the squad who were comprehensively thrashed 82-0 by a French 13 during their three-match tour of France this year.

With the additions of the Australian-based players, the Russians will be out to prove the phrase "whipping boys" is not associated with them in this competition.

But against the giants of England, Australia and Fiji, that may prove unrealistic.

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