Bears embraced by locals

The public look set to have more access to the Russian rugby team's trainings at Lansdowne Park during the next few days.

Russian team director Kingsley Jones, who joined the team yesterday in Blenheim, said he wants to do as much as he could to get the Marlborough public interacting with the team.

"There's obviously some things in secrecy I guess, but with our team, we are not trying to reinvent the wheel. We are trying to do the simple things well and I have said we can have open sessions as long as it is not a distraction before the session.

"Happy for the people to come and watch and after the session the lads can mix and sign autographs as much as they can.

"We need the support. I know how passionate the Kiwis are and I think it is great. Everyone wants to see the Russians. It is great to be here, it really is."

Kingsley Jones, son of former Counties Manukau coach Phil Kingsley Jones and a former Welsh and Counties Manukau loose-forward, said the Russian rugby team had settled into Blenheim well and spent yesterday morning's training session at Lansdowne Park brushing off the cobwebs and travel fatigue.

Following on from a rapturous welcome at Blenheim airport on Tuesday where they were greeted by several hundred fans, the Russian Bears received another warm reception from around 200 onlookers when they walked out onto the ground.

For most of them, it was the first time they had been applauded onto a training field.

The training session began with extensive warm-ups followed by drills and some contact moves with pads, and everyone appeared to come through unscathed. Melbourne Rebels lock Adam Byrnes did not train. He's sitting out the first three days of the build-up nursing a few niggles from the Super rugby competition, but he said it is nothing serious and he will be back training by the weekend.

Team captain, hooker Vladislav Korshunov is extremely excited about being here and was certainly taken by surprise when his team was applauded onto the training field by the crowd at Lansdowne Park yesterday.

Speaking through an interpreter, he said, "It is absolutely incredible and exciting for me. It is like living a dream. It doesn't feel like it is real because we haven't been welcomed at home in this way."

The team is due to have a short training run at Lansdowne Park this morning at 10.30am and at the same time tomorrow and Saturday. They have several activities arranged in the province and this afternoon will receive a special welcome at the Omaka Marae. 

The Marlborough Express