The cold war rivalry continues as Russia prepare to face off against the United States for the fifth time in four years and the fourth consecutive match on neutral grounds.
RUSSIA vs UNITED STATES
Saturday, November 23, 15:00 GMT, London
The Bears vs the Eagles sounds more like an upcoming NFL game, but rest assured there will be rugby played at Allianz Park, the home of Saracens, on Saturday. Russia have never beaten a full American side in a test match, though they did beat a USA XV development side in the remote Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk in July of 2003. Their last meeting came in Colwyn Bay a year ago, with the Eagles touching down six times to claim a convincing 14 point victory.
Kingsley Jones will not have been impressed with his side’s second-half performance against Japan a week ago, as they shipped 27 unanswered points to their opponents after being level at the half. His selection options have been hampered, however, and he has opted to make only one change to the first XV, with Igor Galinovski starting for the first time since the World Cup, taking the place of pedestrian Alexei Makovetski in the midfield.
After a famous win against the Lelos on Saturday, Mike Tolkin’s squad has been further boosted by the additions of Scott LaValla and Robbie Shaw, with Derek Asbun moved to the bench and Mike Petri dropped altogether. Petri has had a tumultuous year in Eagle colours, with many calling for his head alongside NYAC teammate Toby L’Estrange. If Shaw and Siddall impress again on Saturday, Petri’s international days could be numbered.
Tai Tuisamoa will make his official test debut forming a powerhouse second row with Samu Manoa, and Titi Lamositele will enjoy a memorable afternoon as he makes his first test start on the grounds of his new club Saracens, who are poised to sign the young prop to a pro contract following the match. Interestingly he is selected at tighthead, as opposed to his usual loosehead spot, perhaps a response to both Nick Wallace’s increasing value and Eric Fry’s shambolic performance in the scrum.
The Americans should have little trouble ending their year on a high as the only real threats the Bears have at their disposal are on the wings. Galinovski could add some creativity to the midfield, but he has to get the ball first and that continues to be a problem for the limited Russian attack. Expect the surging Eagles to enjoy the speed of the Allianz turf and close out the season with their best performance of the year en route to a 20 point victory.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR)
Assistants: t.b.a. (RFU appointments)