RugbyU: Plane tragedy shocks Russia's Cup team
Russia's World Cup rugby team has been plunged into shock by this week's plane crash which claimed 43 lives and decimated a top ice hockey team, a report said Friday.
Players preparing to open their campaign against the United States next Thursday were stunned after an ageing Yak-42 plane carrying three-time Russian champions Lokomotiv Yaroslavl came down northeast of Moscow.
Some members of Russia's rugby team have friends who play professional ice hockey, which is one of the country's most popular sports.
"It's a huge tragedy. I didn't know anyone personally, but there were connections," coach Nikolay Nerush said through an interpreter, according to New Zealand's Marlborough Express.
"We are all shocked. It did affect our team -- all the players were sad and talking about it."
On Thursday, a minute's silence was held at an official team welcome in Blenheim, in New Zealand's South Island, to mark the tragedy, according to the Express.
Scrum-half Andrey Bykanov said the whole team were hockey fans and many had close links to the sport.
"We all follow hockey. Lots of the players know players in the same club. I didn't personally know anyone on the plane but I know others around the clubs," Bykanov was quoted as saying.
Media manager Leon Addie said players wanted to "express deepest sympathy and condolences to the bereaved families and their loved ones".
"It is a dark day for sport in our country. As a professional Russian sports team we have an affinity to our colleagues. There is a bond across the different sports," he said.
"It is a deeply sorrowful time. Everyone today has been affected. The mood at breakfast was one of shock and concern."
Russia's opening opponents, the United States, are also set for an emotional start when they attend a church service marking the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks just before their first game on Sunday.
Both the United States and Ireland will wear black armbands for the match, after a minute's silence to honour victims of the attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
© 2011 AFP