Wales have been drawn against Italy and Serbia in the 2016 European Qualifiers for Rugby League World Cup 2017.
The Welsh will take on Serbia at home on the weekend of 15-16 October then Italy away on the weekend of 29-30 October in a three-team group. The venues are yet to be announced.
The winners of this group will qualify automatically for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup which takes place in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, with the runners up having a second chance in a play-off at Leigh Sports Village on November 4th 2016 when they will take on the second placed side from a group consisting of Ireland, Spain and Russia.
Wales have lost in both games they’ve played against Italy, 6-13 in a friendly in Wrexham in 2010 and 16-32 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff 2013, whilst in their only outing against Serbia, in 2009, Wales won 88-8 in Smedrevo.
Wales coach John Kear said: “Italy is probably the toughest draw we could have got. They’ve a lot of Australian Italian players to choose from and we know from 2013, where they beat both England and Wales, how well they can play.
“We don’t know too much about Serbia apart from the fact that they’ve had a good 2015 and have done well to qualify for this stage.
“We won’t underestimate anyone. We’ll prepare well, like we have done for this year’s European Championship, and we’ll go into the World Cup qualifiers with a professional outlook.
“If our players they keep developing the way they are right now, there’s no reason why we can’t qualify then go down under in 2017 and make a good account of ourselves.”
Wales take on Ireland this Saturday in Bray (kick-off 5pm) knowing that a win or draw will give them the European Championship trophy for the first time in five years.