By Phil Caplan, Date: 7/9/12
The final matches in the first part of the 2012/3 RLEF European Shield will take place this month, with Italy this weekend and Serbia on 22nd September visiting Russia.
First up, the Bears will face the Azzurri at the SK NARA Stadium in Naro-Fominsk, 70km south west of Moscow city (kick off 4pm local time).
Current league leaders Italy made six changes to the side that defeated Germany last time out, Ray Nasso and Christophe Calegari â€“ who both play in France â€“ returning for their first appearances since the successful 2013 World Cup qualifiers, while their debutant is York City Knight prop Dario Esposito.
Eight of their players will have played in every European Shield matches this year; Ciaurro, Cardella, Fontana, Franchi, Marchesi, Peens, Prizzon and Rancati; Matt Sands and Fabio Nannini have returned from a season playing for All Saints, Liverpool in Australia while sharpshooter Gert Peens will again be important after his excellent goal kicking in the clashes with Serbia and Germany.
Head coach and Technical Director Carlo Napolitano is eagerly anticipating the challenge, â€œWe are looking forward to playing against a strong Russian side,â€ he said.
â€œWe are currently sitting on the top of the table and we intend on doing our best to stay there for the start of the fixtures in 2013 leading into the World Cup. The European Shield is a part of the official selection process for the World Cup so we are looking for good performances and a steady development from all our players.â€
For the hosts, MGPU players – the Moscow State Pedagogical University – who are newcomers in the Central Conference are represented for the first time.
They are part of six new faces, Stormâ€™s Dmitriy Bratko the other, and influential centre Petr Botnarash is back after scoring a hat-trick against Serbia in the RLWC Qualifier last October, as is massive front rower, policeman SergeyKonstantinov.
Player/coach Eduard Ososkov commented, â€œWeâ€™ve made some changes to our squad. The new players who weâ€™ve brought in are fit and their technical skills are pretty good. The teamâ€™s morale is in good shape.â€
ITALY 18-MAN SQUAD
Fabio Nannini, Matthew Sands (All Saints Liverpool), Fabrizio Ciaurro, Thomas Piscitelli (Brescia), Remi Fontana (Cavaillon), Fabio Berzieri, Giovanni Franchi, Drake Muyodi, Davide Rancati Kelly Rolleston, (Ducato Piacenza), Stefano Cardella, Rodrigo Marchesi, Gert Peens (XIII del Duomo Milan), Christophe Calegari (Lezignan), Ray Nasso (SO Avignon), Cedric Prizzon (Villefranche de Rouergue), Dario Esposito (York City Knights), Jonathan Marcinczak (unattached)
RUSSIA 20-MAN SQUAD
Sergey Beliavskiy, Alexey Mikhaylov, Alexandr Samuylov, Victor Tolstov, Sergey Zuev (MGPU), Grigoryan Artem (RBC Red Arrow), Dmitriy Bratko, Igor Chuprin, Vadim Fedchuk, , Alexey Volkov (Storm), Petr Botnarash, Rustam Bulanov, Sergey Gaponov, Anatoly Grigorev, Sergey Konstantinov, Aleksandr Lysokon, Alexey Nikolaev, Eduard Ososkov, Maksim Suchkov, Vladimir Vlasyuk (Vereya Bears)
2012/13 EUROPEAN SHIELD RESULTS TO DATE
ITALY 72 GERMANY 10
SERBIA 24 ITALY 18
GERMANY 26 RUSSIA 32
GERMANY 25 SERBIA 24