Soviet Union women's national rugby union team

The Soviet Union women's national rugby union team were the women's national rugby union team of the Soviet Union. They played six matches between 1990 and 1991, losing them all. The team was severely underfunded, surviving the 1991 Women's Rugby World Cup by bartering and selling items of kit and other artefacts such as vodka. They ceased playing after 1991, because of the collapse of the Soviet Union.[1]

Soviet Union
UnionRugby Union of the Soviet Union
Team kit
Change kit
First international
 New Zealand 8–0 Soviet Union 
Largest win
Largest defeat
 United States 46–0 Soviet Union 
World Cup
Appearances1 (First in 1991)


The Soviet Union played their first match at RugbyFest 1990 against the New Zealand women's national rugby union team and lost 8–0.[1] They also lost their other two matches in the tournament against the Netherlands and the United States.[1] They were invited to participate in the 1991 Women's Rugby World Cup in Wales. This was the first time most of the players had got Soviet Union passports and traveled outside the Soviet Union. The majority of the team was made up from the Moscow-based Victoria rugby club.[1] The team were delayed for two days and half of their luggage went missing at Moscow Airport. When the team arrived, they smuggled five crates of Russian vodka and caviar through customs at Heathrow Airport.[2]

When they arrived in Wales, they resorted to selling or bartering their vodka, caviar and sportswear in order to pay for their living expenses as they were not allowed to take any money out of the Soviet Union.[2] Officers from HM Customs and Excise visited the team when they heard about the illicit vodka sales but left without issuing any enforcement due to the language barrier.[3] The story was reported in national newspapers in the United Kingdom, which led to several donations being given to cover their expenses,[4] including meals from a local pie merchant, £1,200 from an anonymous donor and £100 from the mother of the Welsh team's hooker.[1] The Soviet Union lost all their matches during the tournament against the Netherlands, the United States and Canada; playing without scrum caps or gumshields.[1][2]

The tournament organisers were left with a £30,000 debt owed to the Rugby Football Union after it, which was mainly attributed to the Soviet team as they were unable to pay their expenses.[5] This was the last time the Soviet team played as following the dissolution of the Soviet Union; their place in the 1994 Women's Rugby World Cup was taken by the successor teams of Russia and Kazakhstan.[1]



Full internationals only
Rugby: Soviet Union internationals 1990–1991
Opponent First game Played Won Drawn Lost Percentage
  Canada 1991 1 0 0 1 0.00%
  New Zealand 1990 1 0 0 1 0.00%
  Netherlands 1990 2 0 0 2 0.00%
  United States 1990 2 0 0 2 0.00%
Summary 1990–1991 6 0 0 6 0.00%

Full internationalsEdit

28 August 1990 (RF)
New Zealand  8–0  Soviet Union
30 August 1990 (RF)
Netherlands  12–4  Soviet Union
31 August 1990 (RF)
United States  32–0  Soviet Union
8 April 1991 (WRWC)
Netherlands  28–0  Soviet Union
11 April 1991 (WRWC)
Canada  38–0  Soviet Union

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Remembering WRWC '91: The Soviet Union". Scrum Queens. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  2. ^ a b c "How the Russians endeared themselves to their Welsh hosts at inaugural Women's World Cup". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 22 May 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ Birch, John (9 April 1991). "World Cup: Soviet Union team penniless". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2020 – via
  4. ^ Meagher, Gerard (14 December 2017). "Standards rise at Women's Rugby World Cup but England still the team to beat". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  5. ^ "The incredible journey women's rugby has taken to earn its place in the spotlight". Wales Online. Retrieved 22 May 2020.