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.

News
news
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Sport
sport
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

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all