Ambitious Russia start their first World Cup determined to make an immediate impression by achieving the rare feat of winning their debut game at rugby's showpiece.
The Bears, greeted by hundreds of fans and a Maori welcome as they landed in New Zealand's South Island, take on the United States next Thursday in what is seen as their best chance of a victory in Pool C.
A win over their former Cold War rivals would make Russia the first northern hemisphere team to win their maiden World Cup match, and would be expected to ramp up rugby interest in the increasingly rich country.
No.8 Vyacheslav Grachev said victory next week would be a "dream come true" for Russia, who are just one place below the Americans at 19 on the IRB rankings.
"We knew two months ago that our first game would be against the United States," said Grachev.
"It's our most important match... We want to seize this unique opportunity and to make this dream come true."
Russia are the only debutants at this edition of the World Cup, joining Romania and Georgia among the Eastern Bloc countries competing in New Zealand.
Prop forward Ivan Prishchepenko said Russia were well capable of beating the United States, who will be coming off a tough game against Ireland when they start their tournament on Sunday.
"We should certainly win the first game and then do our best in the next games. We know what our level is and we know well what the other teams' levels are," he said.
Russia, who will also face Australia, Ireland and Italy in Pool C, are aiming to emulate Samoa, South Africa and Uruguay by winning their first-ever game at the World Cup.
They are a team on the rise after an encouraging Churchill Cup performance in June, and have a sprinkling of classy players including captain Vladislov Korshunov, who is an experienced and well-regarded hooker.
Adam Byrnes - an Australian who qualifies through his mother - turns out for Super Rugby's Melbourne Rebels and wing Vasili Artemiev became the English Premiership's first Russian player when he joined Northampton in March.
The participation of Russia, which will host a World Cup Sevens tournament in 2013, is seen as a boon for the IRB, which is continually trying to promote the sport beyond its traditional heartlands.
Loose forward Andrei Ostrikov said the World Cup adventure would also benefit Russia's players and boost the country's long-term prospects.
"Part of the motivation for us in the World Cup is to create a cycle," Ostrikov said.
"We want to play well enough for some more players to catch the eye of some top clubs in Europe so they can go and get the experience. If that happens then we can come back in four years time as a much better team."
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