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So much expectation had been heaped on the Russian team, the pain of losing was difficult to contain for some.

Being a good Russian, flyhalf Yury Kushnarev expressed his sorrow with a sad smile.

“We are very, very disappointed,” he said, smiling a little. “It was not a perfect game for us. USA play well on defense and we make a few mistakes and they break lines and get some points.”

Kushnarev was on the team that was able to run a bit wild on the Eagles in June. Not this time. The wind, cold and rain, and an improved USA defensive line, stopped all that.

“In New Zealand our game plan was to play quite tight and pick and drive more. There was not a lot of chance to play wide, a lot of kick and chase,” he said. “But we know we can build on this and learn from it. It’s a tough tournament and next few games will be tougher. If you play top class, line speed and and defense are so difficult, we have to play at that level.”

The Russian team was welcomed warmly in New Plymouth, and many of the almost 14,000 fans at Stadium Taranaki were cheering for Mother Russia.

“To have supporters like that, it’s fantastic,” said Kushnarev. “In Russia nobody support like we are supported in New Zealand.”