Melrose men set sights on 2023 Rugby World Cup via Russia and Romania

Carl Hogg and Steve Scott used to be team-mates at Melrose, but on Saturday they will be in opposing coaching boxes some 2,000 miles from the Scottish Borders in the Russian city of Sochi.

Romania's coaching team, from left: Analyst Paul Larter, forwards coach Steve Scott, backs coach Sosene Anesi and head coach Andy Robinson.

The Test match between Russia and Romania - along with Portugal versus Georgia on the same day - marks the start of the Rugby Europe Championship 2021 and the long road to Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification.

Hogg, 51, who earned five Scotland caps between 1992 and 1994, is forwards coach with Russia while Scott, whose 11 international appearances came between 2000 and 2004, has the same job with Romania.

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By the end of the Rugby Europe Championship 2022, two teams from Georgia, Spain, Romania, Russia, Portugal and Belgium or the Netherlands will have qualified for the World Cup, with one more going into a further qualifying event.

Former Scotland international Carl Hogg is now the forwards coach with Russia. Picture: Tony Marshall/Getty Images

And with the ‘Europe 2’ qualifier being drawn in Pool B alongside Scotland, Ireland and South Africa in France in two years time, there is a chance that Russia or Romania could come up against Gregor Townsend’s men.

That is some way down the line though and for now the teams are focusing on a solid start.

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Both Russia and Romania won two games in the Championship in 2020 and, with Georgia favourites to finish top, they will likely be scrapping it out with Spain and Portugal to see who can finish second this time around.

Carl Hogg in action for Melrose against Edinburgh Accies. Picture: Alan Ledgerwood

“My involvement with Russia came a bit out of the blue,” Hogg said.

“Head coach Lyn Jones got in touch with me before Christmas to see if I’d be keen to help out during this competition and I saw it as a good opportunity to get back involved in coaching [he left the Ospreys in October last year].

“We still had one match to play from the delayed 2020 tournament, so that 16-7 loss to Georgia in Tbilisi in February allowed me to get a good look at the squad.

“The boys showed incredible heart in that game and, in the last couple of weeks, they have worked hard in camp and we have some great facilities here in Sochi.

Steve Scott in action for Scotland. Picture: Ross Land/Getty Images

“We know that Romania will be a tough match first up because their head coach Andy Robinson will have them well drilled, so we will have to play well on Saturday to get the desired result.”

Robinson, the former Scotland coach, has been in charge of Romania since 2019 and he brought in Scott, who was most recently at London Scottish, and Scottish analyst Paul Larter.

“I have always kept in touch with Andy and this seemed like a good project to get involved with,” Scott, 46, explained.

“I haven’t seen the guys play in a match yet, but the training that we have done has been going well and the players are very receptive to new ideas and trying things out.

“Russia away first up will be a hard match and half of our pack only joined up with us on Sunday night into Monday because they play in France and one of them plays for Zebre in Italy, but they are experienced players who are proud to play for their country so they have slotted back in well.”

Russia v Romania (12pm GMT, Saturday) will be streamed live via rugbyeurope.tv.

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