Rugby Union / Women's World Championship: Russian team are running on empty

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ENGLAND and the United States, who contested the previous final, wasted no time in confirming they will again be the teams to beat when the Women's World Championship kicked off in Scotland yesterday.

Less than a minute had gone when England scored the first of 10 tries against Russia and they clearly eased up long before the end of a romp at Meggetland, Edinburgh.

Meanwhile, the Americans went on the rampage to defeat Sweden 111-0 in a match switched at short notice to Galashiels from Melrose because of ground conditions after Saturday's sevens.

As for England's financial problems, they pale when compared to the plight of the Russians. Emergency arrangements had to be made when they faxed organisers last week to say they would be arriving penniless. An appeal brought an offer of accommodation in the nurses' home of a local hospital.

The official programme for a tournament being staged by Scotland at 90 days' notice after the original hosts, the Netherlands, dropped out, noted how little had been seen or heard of Russian women's rugby in the past three years.

And nothing was seen of the Russians inside the English 22 yesterday, although they did venture far enough for Elenora Kvrenkova to fall short with a penalty attempt.

England asserted themselves immediately with a try by Jacquie Edwards from the first of eight heels against the head by Nicola Ponsford.

Thereafter, only committed Russian defence managed to contain an England side in which the centre Claire Vyvyan, the scrum-half Helen Harding and the No 8 Gill Burns stood out.

Burns, the captain, said: 'We wanted to look at a few new combinations and it was good that we were able to settle in and practice a few things before the end. The Russians were very physical and their heads never went down, but our backs had plenty of space. We're expecting a harder match on Friday from a Scottish side who won't be nearly so technically naive.'

Not many teams retire en bloc to hospital after a match. Russia were able to do so thanks to the fact that St John's has a teaching wing and the students are on holiday.

In yesterday's other games, Wales beat the seeded Canadians 11-5 thanks to a try by Bethan Jones-Evans, while France won 77-0 against the Scottish Students side drafted in as the late replacements for Spain.

England: Tries Blackett 2, Cole 2, Burns 2, Edwards, Ponsford, Wenn, Jenn; Conversions Mills 6; Penalties Mills 2.

ENGLAND: P George (Wasps); V Blackett (Clifton), J Edwards (Blackheath), C Vyvyan (Wasps), A Cole (Saracens); D Mills (Richmond), H Harding (Wasps); E Scourfield (Leeds), N Ponsford (Clifton), C Bronks (Richmond), S Wenn (Clifton), K Henderson (Novocastrians), J Chambers (Richmond), G Burns (Waterloo, capt), K Jenn (Richmond).

RUSSIA: E Solviena; L Evanova, I Erina, E Kvrenkova, O Bogath; R Patlevannaia (capt), E Kostyrko; O Didenko, Y Kirienko, S Krivocharova, N Ivachkova, S Golovko, E Baranova, M Jorina, I Fomina.

Referee: J Bacigalupo (Scotland).

(Photograph omitted)