To Russia With Love
Morland, who represented the Highlanders, Chiefs and Blues in Super Rugby, spent the last two years playing for Auckland in the ITM Cup, after making his name in Otago, while former Hawke’s Bay, Highlanders and New Zealand Maori representative Horton had three seasons with Southland from 2009-11.
While it might seem strange to hear about New Zealanders playing professionally in Eastern Siberia, Krasny Yar is no stranger to Kiwi imports with loose forward Glenn Gregory (Tasman) and the Southland duo of first five John Dodd and No 8 Tom Fleming are also plying their trade for the Krasnoyarsk-based club. Former Stags wing Pehi Te Whare was also at Krasny Yar last season but he was injured and has subsequently left Russia. Another former Otago representative, Ryan Bambry, plays for the champion Yenisey-STM club, which is also based in Krasnoyarsk.
Krasny Yar recently completed a successful five-match tour of New Zealand, where it recorded victories against Shirley, North Canterbury, a Crusaders Academy XV, Suburbs (Christchurch) and a Marlborough XV. The tour squad included several members of the Russian Rugby World Cup team.
Former All Blacks fullback and Tasman Makos assistant coach Leon MacDonald helped prepare the Marlborough XV for its March 28 fixture against the touring Krasny Nar side at Lansdowne Park.
“They were a pretty decent side,” he told the Marlborough Express, “pretty well-drilled.”
MacDonald said Krasny Yar, which won the match 48-18, came out hard and “got in our faces” on defence, adding that few of his players would have experienced that type of line speed before.
Krasny Yar, which was founded by students in 1969, has a proud rugby history, having won a record 10 Soviet Championship/Russian PRL Championship titles.
The Eastern Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, which is widely considered the heartland of Russian rugby, not only boasts two professional clubs in the top league, but also six amateur clubs, with roughly 1000 senior players and 3000 juniors. The IRB website says there are 21,670 people playing rugby in Russia.
Krasny Yar has been involved with the Canterbury Rugby Union’s International High Performance Unit for the past three years. As well as coming out to New Zealand for games each year, Canterbury coaching staff, including IHPU manager John Haggart, have travelled to Siberia to support Krasny Yar, which finished runner-up in last year’s Russian PRL.
Along with Morland and Horton, Krasny Yar looks to have scored a massive coup by signing former Welsh No 10 Ceri Sweeney for the upcoming season, although the deal has not yet been finalised. Sweeney played 35 tests from 2003-07, including appearances at the ’03 and ’07 World Cups. However, he may now be relied upon more heavily at the Cardiff Blues after the club’s decision to sack Gavin Henson with immediate effect following his alcohol-fuelled misconduct on a recent flight from Glasgow to Cardiff.
By Dave Campbell, Rugby News