A Welshman in Moscow, Kingsley is looking

The Russian national team arrive in Ospreylia this weekend, with a Welshman in charge of their preparations for the forthcoming Rugby World Cup.


Former Ebbw Vale and Pontypridd flanker Kingsley Jones, a 10 times capped and one-time Wales captain, took up the reins with the Bears earlier this year after leaving Sale where he had coached for the last eight years, and he will lead Russia into battle in New Zealand next month.

Russia have been drawn in Pool C at the World Cup, and will face a real test against Australia, Ireland and Italy after kicking off against USA in New Plymouth on September 15th. After competing in the English hosted Churchill Cup earlier this summer, Russia have returned to these shores and are currently on a four game UK tour as the final part of their preparations.

They faced 2011 Heineken Cup finalists Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens last weekend before taking on Newport Gwent Dragons in midweek ahead of visiting the Liberty Stadium this coming Sunday (21st August, KO 3.00pm).

Speaking ahead of the Ospreys game, Jones said that he is looking forward to what promises to be a testing afternoon for both teams:

“The Ospreys will present us with a fantastic challenge” he said.

“I think that we can offer them something different to test themselves against as well. They’ve got a great squad of players even with the internationals away. There are some fantastic young players coming through at the region and talking to Andrew Hore and Scott Johnson about them, it’s clear that they have high hopes for how some of these players will step up this season so I’m expecting a good game.

“It’s excellent preparation for our World Cup, it really is. I’d say it’s better than playing against nations who are the same tier as us, as a game against the Ospreys will bring with it a higher intensity, one that I’d say is probably higher than some of the Churchill Cup games. It will certainly help make sure we’re ready.”

Having gone down fighting against Northampton, and then pushing the Dragons all the way, Jones says that his team is building well ahead of their first game at the World Cup. He explained:

“We had a very tough game against Northampton, who played two different teams with a complete changeover at half-time and that obviously gave them some impetus in the game. We are preparing with the game against USA on September 15th in mind, where we can only use 22 players, so in many ways we were at a disadvantage by not making the same number of changes, but it will help us in the long run by playing to the tournament rules.

“The Ospreys game is the next step in our preparation after games in the Churchill Cup and the Northampton and Dragons matches, and it will be very close to our best 22 for the Rugby World Cup that will play at the Liberty on Sunday. We need to look at some partnerships, and get some continuity into our game, but we are there or thereabouts in identifying our best team, and that will be reflected against the Ospreys.

“We scored three good tries against Northampton and two more against the Dragons in a game that was very evenly balanced into the final quarter and we were just seven points behind until again, like Northampton, they made wholesale changes which swung the game away from us.

“I think we’ll surprise a few people with the quality of rugby we try to play as a team. Anyone coming on Sunday can expect to see an attacking team, we’re good with ball in hand, we are in dangerous in possession and we try to get the ball to our back three at every opportunity.

“The difficulty we have had at the highest level is getting enough possession, we need to secure our set-piece and provide more of a platform, but the improvement in that area has been huge and I expect us to compete strongly on Sunday.

“We’ve got two locks that are very good players who haven’t been involved yet because of injury that will get their first games against the Ospreys and that will make a big difference in that area. We’ll try and play to our strengths, we’ll compete well and who knows what we can achieve if we all do our jobs? That’s the beauty of rugby.

“This whole tour has been important for us as a team, and for the development of Russian rugby. Playing high quality opposition can only get us sharper ahead of the World Cup and the Ospreys will provide a huge challenge, with Gloucester to come. The real shame then is that being the very last team to play at the World Cup, with our first game not until September 15th, we have about three weeks between playing Gloucester and the USA game, which is a long time to be waiting.”

After eight years at Edgeley Park with Sale, the move to the Russia job would have been something of a culture shock for Jones, but he says it’s a challenge he’s thriving on:

“It’s been a really exciting time for me, it’s been a real breath of fresh air. I’ve always enjoyed different cultures and experiences, going to different places, and this has certainly been something different for me.

“I’ve got a team of coaches working with me who are good friends and good rugby people, people like Paul Pook and Huw Wiltshire, and as Backs Coach we’ve got Henry Paul. We want to do well for Russia and are heading in the right direction. I’m certainly enjoying the challenge. Once you’ve earned the respect of the Russian people they are very loyal and supportive and I want to repay that in New Zealand next month.”

Tickets for the game are now on sale at the Liberty Stadium Ticket Office and online at this link, priced at just £15 for adults and an incredible £1 for all under-16’s.

The game has been designated a family fun day , with the cost of the ticket including access to a family village pre-match, where there will be fairground rides, rugby themed inflatable’s, children’s entertainers, face painters and a visit from the players, while refreshments will also be available.

The game is also covered by the Ospreys season-ticket, which is still on sale priced at £165, which allows you admission to EVERY home game in 2011/12 for just £9.70 a match. In addition, up to four children can claim a free season-ticket with a paying adult, meaning the whole family can enjoy EVERY home game at the same fantastic price of £9.70 per match.

For more details on season-ticket packages, or to download an application form, click here.