James Lawton: Schedule still leaves the lesser nations at a disadvantage

Georgia went in seven points adrift of England, giving the World Cup a whiff of something special that might have coloured the game beyond the Caucasus

To the roll call of unlikely heroes we must now add the name of Russia's diminutive replacement scrum-half Alexander Yanyushkin.

Not only did he score the infant rugby nation's first World Cup try after seeing a small patch of light in what must have looked like a mountain range of blue Italian jerseys, he saved the ruling International Rugby Board from an especially deep embarrassment.

Yanyushkin's scuffling score may not have come within the length of Gorky Street to the one his countryman and namesake, Prince Alexander Sergeevich Obolensky ran in against the All Blacks on behalf of England 75 years ago but it had a certain nobility all of its own.

It meant, above all else, that in the end the Azzurri were merely ahead by 53 points to 17, a score-line which but for the brave little man's intervention might have come uncomfortably close to the century mark.

That would have been in the worst possible taste and timing in view of the fact that the IRB had just announced its decision to forgive Samoan centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu for his angry charge that its policy of giving the big teams twice as much rest time as their "second tier" opponents was a form of slavery.

Fuimaono-Sapolu unfortunately went a bit further than that, suggesting it was in fact rugby's version of the Holocaust.

However, if he was quick to retract a grotesque overstatement yesterday, it was not at the cost of his basic argument that it was outrageous to expect the likes of Samoa, Georgia and Russia to face front-line rugby nations Wales, England and Italy, conquerors of France in this year's Six Nations action, who had enjoyed three or four days of extra recuperation from bruising opening games.

The challenge this represented for a team like Russia, still learning the basic techniques of scrummaging and with Italy's superstar Sergio Parisse in especially luminous form, became progressively huge – right up to the moment Yanyushkin remembered the battle cry of the oppressed that it is better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

Yanyushkin's thrust for the line provided the inspiration for two more Russian tries and was the difference between a bruising, draining 80 minutes and an exquisitely painful humiliation.

In forgiving Fuimaono-Sapolu his outburst, the IRB naturally drew an official veil over the substance of his complaint. This, we are asked to understand, came out of an ignorance of one of the basic realities of the evolving tournament of a still emerging professional game.

Scheduling insists, we are told, that the needs of television and their advertisers are given first priority. Having a daily diet of live play requires a certain sacrifice – one that it has been decided must be borne by those who are least able to make it.

This is the IRB's idea of a little kneeling at the altar of professionalism but the fact is that, in its seventh incarnation, this World Cup continues to surrender potentially its most potent form of advertising. This is the possibility of extraordinary, inspiring performance from those areas which will ultimately dictate the breadth and depth of a world game.

The Samoans, 49-12 winners against Namibia in their opening game, claim bitterly that with the same rest and preparation time as the Welsh they would have done a lot better than the bonus point which came with the 17-10 defeat. The Georgians could hardly make such a claim after going down 41-10, but it is still true that they performed with a haunting brilliance of spirit and effort until exhaustion overcame them in the second half.

When Georgia ran at England, when they induced a stream of penalties and went into the half-time break just seven points adrift, they had given the seventh World Cup a whiff of something splendid that might well have stretched out and coloured the game beyond the Caucasus.

England, pushed against the wall, would almost certainly, you have to believe, have found a way out of their crisis even against a team who had been required to return to the action after just a four-day break from their bruising game with Scotland – as opposed to the eight days granted their conquerors.

The IRB makes the point that rugby in places like Georgia and Samoa and Russia is well served by the development seed money made possible by the TV revenue created by a World Cup. It says that one day there will be a level field and equable arrangements for rest and preparation – a day when an Alexander Yanyushkin and his team-mates perhaps do not have to face quite such loaded odds.

In the meantime, maybe the best hope is that someone at the business end of rugby grasps that what Yanyushkin pulled off yesterday was something that in the long run might prove to be more valuable than any amount of television gold.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape