Russia throw WC lifeline to Aussie-born Byrnes

by Staff Writer

Australian-born second row Adam Byrnes is set to make his international debut at Rugby World Cup 2011 playing for Russia.

And at the age of 30, Byrnes, who harboured hopes of becoming a Wallaby, may instead get the chance to play against his country of birth.

“I understand that my case is really unique,” the Melbourne Rebels player said.

“In January-February this year I read an article in an international rugby magazine about Russia's first time at the Rugby World Cup. One of the coaches was asking for players with a Russian background to be able to join the team.

“My teammate gave me an email address of Russia’s Welsh forwards' coach Kingsley Jones and I wrote a letter to him explaining who I am and saying that I'd be pleased to play for the Bears.

"I asked him, 'do you want me?', and he replied within hours, 'yes we do'.

“I'm Russian from my mother’s side. She left the USSR for Australia after World War II with her parents and sisters.

Strong heritage

“There is a strong Russian community in Australia. The nation which is made of immigrants embraces various cultures, so I can’t say I don’t feel Russian because I was born in Australia.

“Although I forgot the language when I went to school, I still hear much of it when we celebrate Russian Christmas and Easter. These holidays are big events that bring all our family together twice a year.”

Judging from Byrnes’ words, he might agree with a popular Russian saying: "What is done is all done for the better."

“It has always been my goal to be a Wallaby but getting a chance to represent Russia at the Rugby World Cup is a pleasant surprise I really appreciate.," Byrnes said.

“I feel proud and I wish to help Russian rugby to become a professional organisation capable of competing with international rugby giants in the future.”

The chance to play Australia in their last Pool C game is something special for the newly-born Bear.

“It is fantastic to face Australia in the competition. There are so many guys among the Wallabies who I played with or against.

"And if I oppose Melbourne Rebels teammate Nick Phipps on the pitch, that would be nice for the club.”

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