THE Russians descended on York yesterday as their representatives in the York International 9s, Strela Kazan, arrived in the city.

Strela, who made history when they took part in the Challenge Cup, are one of 26 teams from all over Europe who will battle for the Fairfax Cup at Heworth ARLC's Elm Park Way. They were welcomed at a function put on by City of York Council at the National Railway Museum.

Coach Igor Petrushinin said via a translator: "It's our first time in this competition so we don't know what to expect.

"We will learn from it and we hope to do well. This tournament is good for the rugby league fellowship and will help development of the game in Russia."

The York 9s kicks off tomorrow at 10.30am with a mouth-watering group one York Ironsides v York RUFC clash-of-the-codes.

Group games will take place tomorrow followed by the England v Scotland (Summer Conference) amateur international, with the final stages played on Sunday. The ten teams who do not get through the group stage will compete for the new York City Knights Shield.

Sunday will also see the Marston Moor Cup tag RL tournament for local primary school teams, as well as a Strela Kazan v Stanley Rangers Under-15s friendly.

Group One: York Ironsides, East Coast Eagles, York RUFC, Carlisle Centurions, Liverpool Buccaneers, Bridlington Bulls.

Group Two: London Koogas, Les Hussards de Paris, Bristol Sonics, Glasgow Bulls, Royal Air Force.

Group Three: Avignon, West Indies Exiles, Leeds Akademiks, Worcester Saints, British Army.

Group Four: Strela Kazan, Zuid Holland, Durham Tigers, Belfast Bulls, Royal Navy.

Group Five: FC Lezignan, South Asia Bulls, Edinburgh Eagles, Cambridge Eagles, Lancaster.

Updated: 12:24 Friday, June 20, 2003