2019 World Cup: Lyn Jones' Russia 'have mountain to climb'
Welsh coach Lyn Jones says his Russia side "have a mountain to climb" after being given a place in the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Russia finished fourth in the tier-two European Nations Cup in 2018 but were promoted to second after Romania and Spain fielded ineligible players.
They will face Ireland, Scotland, hosts Japan and Samoa in the finals.
"We've landed a hot-spot in the Rugby World Cup by default, so we've got a mountain to climb," Jones explained.
Russia next face Japan in a warm-up in Gloucester on Saturday, 24 November.
"My appointment was going to be for the long term, but since that we've been handed an opportunity to play in the World Cup which gives me a bit of an Everest in front of me," Jones told BBC Sport Wales.
"We're excited, the players are delighted and it's going to be the most exciting year of their rugby career.
"They're focused, and Russian boys work hard, they're disciplined and they're proud."
Jones' former Dragons and London Welsh colleague Kingsley Jones took Russia to the 2011 World Cup, their only previous appearance in the finals, but they could not manage a win.
His current squad includes Sale lock Andrei Ostrikov and former Northampton back Vasily Artemyev, but what are their chances of breaking that duck in 2019?
"We have the hosts on day one, then we play Samoa four days after, and as poor as they are for three years, for the World Cup year they can be very tasty with all their big hitters back," said Lyn Jones.
"Then there's the small matter of taking on Ireland and the 'Scottish Barbarians', so it's a great challenge.
"We saw huge performances from Japan and Namibia in the last World Cup, so anything can happen on the day."
With a reputation as something of a maverick in Welsh rugby circles, where he coached Ospreys to two Celtic League titles and an Anglo-Welsh Cup victory, what has Jones learnt from his namesake and current Canada coach Kingsley about Russia?
"I went in with my eyes wide open, in tier two nations there's a huge (sporting) political system.
"But there's a lot of good rugby players in Russia, and it's a sleeping giant.
"There are lots of plans for the long-term development of the game; at the moment it's about the short term, but there's lots of good things going on."