By anyone’s measure, Russia isn’t exactly a rugby superpower. But the sport has been gradually growing in popularity and profile in the country over the last 10 years, culminating in the Bears clinching a place in the 2011 Rugby World Cup, and hosting the Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament earlier this year. While the fall of the USSR saw many of Russia’s rugby players lost to newly autonomous teams such as Georgia, with a population of nearly 150 million, like old rivals the USA, they’re a sleeping rugby giant, and so it’s nice to see Canterbury furnish them with a unique interesting kit to work with. Russia qualifying for the 2011 RWC was obviously a massive achievement for them, but when they turned up, it was somewhat dispiriting that they ran out wearing shirts that looked like they’d been ordered straight off Canterbury’s team wear catalogue and then had the badge sewn on by some kindly babushkas the night before the game. It was, to put it mildly, a bit of a shit look.
It’s really encouraging then, to see Canterbury give a smaller team the benefit of some thoughtful, tailored design this time around. This new shirt is a simple, restrained design with minimal ornamentation and fuss – let’s face it, it’s very Russian.
We love the double V on the shirt’s front – it’s low down enough so that it’s doesn’t look like a rugby league shirt (we’re looking at you Bordeaux and London Irish), while creating an instantly recognisable design that’s unique in the rugby world. The concept’s actually borrowed from the Russian national football team, who have often used a Russian flag-aping stripe in their designs over the last two decades, but we think making it a V here has lifted it.
The away shirt’s a simple palette-swap, but again, it’s a great design that might even look a little better than the home shirt. We also like the way both shirts have incorporated the Russian coat of arms on the front and centre of the design. The RWC shirt featured this on the shoulder, but sticking it in the centre of the jersey adds a nice symmetry to the top half of the design. And given that the RUR badge is, let’s face it, fucking rubbish (WE USE BEAR WITH BALL), adding the coat of arms to the shirt adds a touch of class to proceedings.
It’s really encouraging to see a big firm such as Canterbury create a bespoke design for a smaller rugby nation – it adds visual variety to the milieu of international rugby, and saves us from the ugly spectre of bland templates sullying our tournaments. It might not be as bold as the rainbow Sevens shirt, but frankly, the notion of stoic, borderline psychotic Russian rugby players trotting out in that rather cosmopolitan shirt made us a bit uncomfortably anyway…
SHIT/GOOD RATING: Xорошо!