By Ali Donnelly
Kazakhstan women's rugby captain Nastya Khamova tells us how her side are preparing for the World Cup.
The Kazakhs are Asia's representative in the 12-team competition and they are underdogs in their pool at the competition where they will face Ireland, England and the USA.
They play rarely on the 15 aside stage but did compete in a two-test series against South Africa recently where they lost both games.
Khamova said:"After the test matches against South Africa we carried out training camp in the highland areas of Kazakhstan for three weeks. Now we are in a process of preparing for the Kazakhstan National Championships which happen before the World Cup."
While the games against South Africa, played in Dubai, were unsuccessful results wise for Kazakhstan, the experience will stand the isolated team in good stead.
"It was not easy to compete with the South Africa team however we gained skills and exchanged experience. The key factor was that before playing those games, we were not able to play any test matches. We learned a lot from the game. We learned that we should increase our physical condition, run faster and play tougher."
They will certainly need to play tough in London where a challenging pool awaits wiith the host nation to face as well as the difficult challenges of improving Ireland and USA teams. Kazakhstan have actually beaten Ireland before -in 1998 and in 2000 - but the Irish have benefited from their inclusion in the 6 Nations and are a much improved outfit over the past few years.
Kazakhstan though are always a physical outfit and they proved to be far too strong for their Asian rivals in last year's World Cup qualifiers beating Japan and Hong Kong on the way to booking their ticket to London.
To preare for the World Cup, the majority of the players taking part recently travelled to China to take part in the Asian women's 7s where they finished second having lost to China in the final.
The Kazakhs are also hoping play a big part in the next World Cup having bid for the right to host the event. It would be a gamble for the IRB to award the event to Kazakhstan but it would be a huge boost to the women's game there if it happened. The decision was due to be made in May but was deferred and may now well be made while Kazakhstan are competing in London.
"The game in Kazakhstan developing slowly but surely,Khamova added.
" We bid for 2014 to host it in Almaty and we are looking forward to have a chance to win it."
Khamova is well used to being part of major bidding processes as she was part of the IRB team along with a range of other leading women's rugby internationals last year in helping win a place for rugby 7s at the 2016 Olympics.
"The campaign lasted almost for a year and I was honoured to be a part of it. We were a real team and have done our best to promote 7s around the world. As a player it was really motivating and full of interesting things to discus, a great experience."
While her side may well have their sights on causing some upsets in their pool, she is tipping one of her early opponents to lift the title.
"I expect England to win WRWC-2010, because they are playing at home and they are the pioneers in the game of rugby. However we should take into account New Zealand, Canada and France as well as big challengers."
Image: Natasha with the IRB Olympic delegation last year.