It’s the one we have all been waiting for. No, not, the Rugby World Cup itself, but the opening game of this seven-week-long tournament, Japan versus Russia.
Friday morning’s game could end up feeling like it has lasted seven weeks, more than 80 minutes, for the Russians, if the handicap betting is anything to go by.
Japan are 40-point favourites! And judging by Russia’s warm-up losses to Connacht (42-14), the Jersey Reds (33-22) and Italy (85-15), 40 points could be a modest figure here.
Japan’s biggest ever winning margin was their 52-8 win over Zimbabwe in 1991, so that record is most certainly there for the taking.
Artemyev, the Russian captain at this World Cup, is a name familiar to many Irish rugby fans as the flying winger/full-back played his schools rugby with Blackrock College on the old Emerald Isle.
The 32-year-old also spent some time with UCD and the Northampton Saints before returning to his native Russia to play his club rugby there.
Russia might not even score a single point in this game, but you would be regretting it forever if you didn’t back that one lad who you can pretend to know about when watching the game with your mates.
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) September 18, 2019
Russia may have limited Rugby World Cup experience from 2011, but this side are without doubt one of the weakest in this 2019 competition. Ranked 20th in the World, the Russian Bears are only in Japan thanks to Spain, Romania and Belgium all playing ineligible players in their qualifying games.
The Russia side, managed by Wales’ Lyn Jones, are most certainly one of the teams who are visiting Japan, just to make up the numbers.
With the host coach Jamie Joseph promising to bring ‘ball in play time’ north of 40 minutes, something tells me that the ‘Bears’ will struggle to get a grip on the ‘Brave Blossoms’ Look at Japan to surge past the half-century point and 9/2 is a very generous price on the winning margin of 51-60.