32-year-old Vasily Artemyev captains Russia at this year’s World Cup. It’s a lesser known fact that Artemyev is a graduate of Blackrock College, and lesser known still that he is a graduate of our own University College Dublin.

Coming to Blackrock as a boarder Artemyev was not long taking flight on the rugby pitch. He is the holder of both Junior and Senior Cup medals; as well as a fist full of representative honours, including Irish under 19s. With UCD Artemyev won Metro League and Cup, as well as being part of the intervarsity team to win the Conroy Cup and an illustrious Irish Universities team.

Not just a high-flier on the field; Artemyev studied law at UCD upon his graduation from Blackrock College. However, Vasily seemed to hear the call of home: following his graduation he returned to Moscow in 2008 to play for professional club VVA. Around this time, he also began representing Russia.

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Artemyev seemed to have returned home to stay. However, following a spate of impressive performances at the 2011 World Cup Vasily Artemyev signed for premiership side Northampton Saints. He quickly became a fan favourite at Franklin’s Gardens, scoring a hat-trick in his debut against Saracens and a further two tries in his league debut against Newcastle Falcons. 

The former UCD man has since returned to Russia, joining club Krasny Yar in Russia’s unofficial ‘Rugby Capital’ Krasnoyarsk. As captain he was at the helm of a historic victory over Stade Francais in the European Challenge Cup in 2017.

However, what is perhaps most impressive about Artemyev is his attitude towards the game. Whether he picked up this attitude at Blackrock College, UCD or somewhere else along the way it is hard to tell. What is certain though is that this tough-as-nails captain really enjoys his rugby and understands the true meaning of sport. In his most recent Instagram post; pictured with Samoan fullback Tim Nanai-Williams he writes: 

‘For me rugby is respect. Respect for the game, respect for the ref, for the opponent, supporters… We came to this world cup to earn respect for ourselves and I think we can hold our heads high after tonight’s match despite some shortcomings..

Big respect for our Samoan brothers! All players played their hearts out tonight. Many sore bodies on both sides I’m sure)) From the island of Russia to the islands of Samoa we salute you))))

@tim_nwilliams it’s been a pleasure playing against you, uce! All the best for the tournament!!’

Keep in mind that this was written after an extremely physical encounter with Samoa; a game in which Artemyev was on the receiving end of two tackles that received yellow cards. He seems to have an uncanny ability to get back to his feet no matter what. He is a tough cookie, no question there; and a great ambassador for his country. Maybe more importantly though is being an ambassador for the sport in Russia, which is small nation in rugby terms. 

As I write this the heroic performance of Uruguay against Fiji is on the television; in my peripheral vision. Perhaps the valiant performances of Artemyev’s Russia in their first two pool games have inspired lesser known rugby nations at this year’s tournament. Perhaps, it should serve as inspiration for us all; not just for rugby, but for our lives as a whole. One might have had the preconception that having started out with two titans of the game in Blackrock College and UCD Artemyev might have missed some of the traditional amateur values of the game. The reality is that Artemyev understands that the game is about enjoyment and respect for your opposition. It’s not about the size of the dog in the fight; it’s about the size of the fight in the dog.


Matthew Dillon – Sport Editor