Artemiev to miss Dubai event


Under-19 World Cup: Blackrock schoolboy Vasya Artemiev will play no part in next month's under-19 world championships in Dubai after being declared ineligible to represent Ireland by the International Rugby Board (IRB).

Although a Russian citizen, the winger has lined out for Blackrock in the Leinster Schools Cup since 2003 - when he first came to prominence with a hat-trick of tries in the Junior Cup final victory over Gonzaga. Artemiev won a second Senior Cup medal on St Patrick's Day. He is also a gifted student and intends to continue his third-level education in Dublin.

Although he was a member of last year's Triple Crown-winning Irish schools side and gained an under-19 international cap against Australia this season, IRB regulation 8.18 states: "As far as students are concerned, particularly those who are not financially independent, being resident as a full-time student in another country is likely to be considered as a series of temporary absences from the parental home. In the majority of cases involving students, the parental home is likely to continue to constitute the student's permanent and primary home."

Artemiev is a boarder in Blackrock; his parental home is in Moscow.

"Regarding the player's past participation at under-19 level, that's really an issue for the IRFU and we are not going to comment on that, but because the under-19 world championship comes under the auspices of the IRB we would refer you to regulation 8.18," added IRB spokesman Dominic Rumbles.

Despite the 18-year-old's enthusiasm to represent his adopted country, backed by written permission from his parents, Artemiev still possesses a Russian passport. If he continues to pursue rugby as a career, dual citizenship would be the next move, but this was not organised in time for Dubai.

"I don't think this will be a recurring problem," said Ireland under-19 manager Keith Patton. "Whatever way they are working at it he will be available for Ireland, possibly even next year. I think the fact that he is a minor has not helped. As far as I'm aware he is ineligible due to his Russian background. Although he is (living) in Ireland he is being supported from outside of Ireland so he is a dependant.

"He is a great fella and speaks perfect English, is very well spoken in fact, and is a very good rugby player. He has potential."

Ireland now depart for Dubai on Saturday without two key players from the Leinster Schools Cup winners as the Leinster Academy-bound Luke Fitzgerald had already opted out to concentrate on the Leaving Certificate. Blackrock's only representative is centre Aidan Wynne.

Ireland play England in the opening pool fixture next Wednesday before facing France on April 9th and Samoa four days later. The first two matches will be televised live on Sky Sports, as will the semi-finals and the final, on April 21st.

Artemiev is not the first Russian winger to cause a nationality stir in rugby circles. Prince Alexander Obolensky won four caps for England in the 1930s, immortalising his brief international career with two tries in the televised 13-0 defeat of New Zealand on January 4th, 1936, at Twickenham.

Obolensky's parents, Prince Serge - an officer in the Czar's Imperial Horse Guards - and Princess Luba fled to London after the Russian revolution of 1917. Their son played for Leicester from 1934 to 1939, but controversy about his selection for England only abated when he gained citizenship in 1936. Shredding the All Blacks defence also helped silence the detractors.

On the outbreak of the second World War, Obolensky joined the Royal Air Force only to be killed in 1940, aged just 24, during training when his aircraft dropped into a ravine at the end of the runway, breaking his neck. He is buried in Ipswich war cemetery.