Russia and Ukraine to do battle in European Championship B clash

Despite conflict between Russia and Ukraine seemingly increasing both on the ground and on our televisions, there is one upcoming battle between the two former Soviet nations that is unknown to most.

On May 24, Russia will play host to Ukraine in its opening match of the 2014-15 European Championship B. Ukraine was originally set to host the match at their headquarters in Kharkov, but increasing tensions within the Eastern city has resulted in the Rugby League European Federation reallocating the match to Moscow.

To most western sporting fans, rugby league is not a sport that comes to mind when thinking of these two Eastern European heavyweights. Boxing, hockey and football – sure! But rugby league would have most sporting fans raising an eyebrow.

The truth is that Russia has been playing rugby league for over two decades and has over 2,000 active participants. Nicknamed the Bears, Russia is also the reigning champions of what was titled the European Shield in 2012-13.

Rebranded as the European Championship B Russia will be aiming to re-emerge as victors at the end of the two year, home and away series.

But even if Russia manages to defeat an emotional Ukrainian outfit, they will still have to fight off 2013 World Cup participants Italy and a rapidly improving Serbia.

If only all battles could be played out on the rugby pitch.

Who: Russia v Ukraine

What: Rugby League European Championship B

When: May 24

Where: Vereya, Moscow Region

Petr Botnarash, Nikolay Zagoskin (Fili), Rustam Bulanov, Mikhail Burlutskiy, Sergey Gaponov, Anatoliy Grigorev, Kirill Nechaev, Aleksey Nikolaev, Sergey Konstantinov, Aleksander Lysokon, Eduard Ososkov, Roman Safronov, Andrey Sevostyanov, Maxim Suchkov, Denis Tulenev, Vladimir Vlaysuk, (Vereya); Artem Grigoryan, Kirill Kasharin, Mikhail Nisiforov, Roman Ovchinnikov (Lokomotiv); Andrey Zdobnikov (MGTUGA); Grigory Esin (Saint Petersburg), Dmitry Bratko, Vadim Fedchuk, Konstantin Roschin, (Storm)

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