At the 2019 Rugby World Cup opening game, the world watched Russia take on hosts Japan. Team captain Vasily Artemyev, back at his boyhood Moscow club, hopes to use that exposure to make rugby a top 3 sport in the country.
Although Russia lost the game 30-10 and failed to win a single game at the finals, Vasily himself grabbed headlines as a ‘Captain Fantastic’ figure delivering impassioned speeches after performances that fell short of glory, but won over spectators with their gutsy underdog style and attitude.
In recent years, rugby has undergone something of a resurrection in Russia, where the sport was partially banned during the Soviet period.
Zelenograd, an enclave of north-west Moscow, has nevertheless remained a hotbed for the game in Russia in that time, and was where Artemyev began his own career, before moving to Ireland to complete his education. Recently he completed a move back his hometown having moved to CSKA Moscow from Russian rugby giants Krasny Yar.
Now back in his native town, via a playing career that saw him play university rugby on the Emerald Isle and Premiership Rugby for Northampton Saints as well as two World Cups, the man who owns an abundance of national pride and an exquisitely kept mustache, says rugby can build on the spotlight that Japan 2019 brought, to become a top three team sport in his motherland.