Aussie Byrnes picked for Russia

Second row goes back to Russian roots while hosts New Zealand follow England in naming RWC 2011 squad.

    Byrnes says he will need to brush up on his Russian after speaking fluently as a boy [GALLO/GETTY]

    World Cup debutants Russia have named Australian second row Adam Byrnes in their 30-man squad.
    Coach Nikolai Nerush included Byrnes, who plays for the Melbourne Rebels and has Russian ancestry, in the squad for the September 9-October 23 tournament in New Zealand.

    "Both grandparents on my mother's side are Russian, and I was baptised in a Russian Orthodox church, so I have strong connections to my Russian heritage," Byrnes said earlier this year.
    "Language was easy as a kid, my mum spoke to me in Russian and I spoke it fluently as a child. But over time that has waned a bit as English took over," he added.

    "I'll have to do a bit of a crash course in numbers and basic things, but hopefully I can pick it all up again."

    Despite his Russian heritage, Byrnes had to convince Russia's coaching staff that he would be able to blend in with his new teammates on this month's two-week tour of Britain. 

    "We'll see if he really wants to play for Russia and gets along with the rest of the team before we make a final decision," Nerush told the Reuters news agency earlier this month.

    "We don't want to create any animosity in the team."

    Winger Vasili Artemyev, who earlier this year became the first Russian to join an English Premiership side when he signed a two-year contract with Northampton Saints, also made the cut. 

    Russia, who are in Pool C alongside Australia, Italy, Ireland and the United States, begin their campaign against the Americans in New Plymouth on September 15.

    All Blacks go for experience

    World number one New Zealand named their most experienced squad on Tuesday as they chase their first World Cup success in 24 years at home in next month's tournament.

    The 30-man squad, named in Brisbane and which will be led by All Blacks flanker Richie McCaw, comprises 16 forwards and 14 backs.

    The All Blacks, consistently ranked number one in the world, have a well-documented history of World Cup collapses.

    There is a combined 1,133 Test caps of experience in the All Blacks squad.

    Along with skipper McCaw there are four others – fly-half Daniel Carter, hooker Keven Mealamu, fullback Mils Muliaina and lock Ali Williams – who will appear in their third World Cup tournament, while another seven will be playing in their second tournament.

    On Monday, 2003 winners England had also announced their squad.

    Manager Martin Johnson said injuries were a concern as he left New Zealand-born centre Riki Flutey out.


    Johnson named four players – prop Andrew Sheridan, wing Chris Ashton, scrum-half Ben Youngs and captain and World Cup winning flanker Lewis Moody – in his 30-man squad for New Zealand despite the quartet being hampered by injury.

    Of the four only Moody has had a run-out in England's two warm-up games against Wales so far and he only lasted for 61 minutes of the first Test at Twickenham before retiring with knee injury.

    Johnson also had to cope with the loss of scrum-half Danny Care, who needed surgery on his toe, ruling him out of the tournament, following the second Wales game in Cardiff and that has impacted on his selection elsewhere.

    Care's absence persuaded Johnson to include Wasps' uncapped Joe Simpson as one of a trio of scrum-halves where previously the former England captain may have used full-back Ben Foden and Flutey as cover.

    Flutey missed out on a trip to his native New Zealand and Johnson revealed cutting him from a squad where England are still travelling with players yet to prove their fitness was one of his toughest decisions.

    "In an ideal world they would all be in great form with game time but we don't live in that world," Johnson told reporters at England's training camp, south-west of London, on Monday.

    "Lewis is an important piece of what we do. So is Ben and so is Andrew Sheridan. We anticipate them being ready to go in the World Cup," added Johnson, captain of the only England side ever to have won rugby union's showpiece event.

    Flutey played for the British and Irish Lions in 2009 but injuries and an unsuccessful spell with French club Brive checked his progress, allowing fellow New Zealand born-back Shontayne Hape, a former Kiwi rugby league international, to establish himsel as England's inside centre.

    Johnson is also mindful of the physicality of the Argentinian and Georgian packs, both in England's pool, hence his decision to pick five props in Alex Corbisiero, Sheridan, Dan Cole, David Wilson and Matt Stevens.

    England are aiming to appear in a third successive World Cup final, having lost in the climax to South Africa four years ago in Paris.

    Aside from Moody, others remaining from the 2003 triumph are Jonny Wilkinson – who kicked the match-winning drop goal against hosts Australia – hooker Steve Thompson, lock Simon Shaw, who joined the squad midway through the tournament as a replacement, and centre Mike Tindall.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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