Former Springbok and Sharks centre Dick Muir says World Rugby’s decision to suspend Russia from international competition in view of the ongoing conflict with Ukraine has been a massive disappointment to the national team.
Russia and Belarus were suspended from all international rugby “until further notice” on Tuesday, World Rugby said, as it announced “full and immediate” sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s membership of the world governing body was also suspended indefinitely, meaning the country’s slim hopes of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in France are over.
Muir, who served served as an assistant Bok coach to Peter de Villiers from 2008 to 2011, had only recently been appointed as head coach of Russia’s national team.
He was joined by Grant Bashford and the two were in Turkey preparing the team for their crucial fixture against Georgia when the decision was made.
“I’m devastated,” Muir told Independent Media. “We were about to play a string of matches in the Rugby Europe Championship [the second division below the Six Nations]. We were holding out hope that some kind of agreement could keep us playing but that hasn’t happened.
“It is a massive disappointment for the Russian players as they have put so much effort into changing how they play. They responded really well to what we have been teaching them and there was a genuine belief that we could beat Georgia for the first time in 29 years.”
In an incredible twist of irony, Independent Media reported that the Russia and Ukraine national rugby teams were using the same facilities in Turkey when the war broke out.
“A lot of people don’t understand what this war is about,” Muir stressed. “It is a political thing, it is not about ordinary people. There are families split across both countries.
“At our training facility in Turkey, we had Turkish, Ukrainian and Russian teams and there was no animosity between the countries — everybody got on. We shared a dining hall with the Ukraine players and it was just a hall full of rugby players enjoying themselves.”
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