The Serbian squad has arrived in Russia for the second match in European Championship B tomorrow (Saturday) at the Fily Stadium in Moscow; the competition also doubling as a qualifier for the 2021 World Cup in England.
A dispute over visas for heritage players from Australia, after a late change in regulations, has seen the Serbians arrive without them. Having lost the opening game 32-24 in Spain last weekend, the Russians cannot afford a second defeat or they will be eliminated.
Amongst those missing for the Serbians is head coach Brett Davidson, with Radoslav Novaković in charge for the clash. “The first game in a competition like this always brings challenges, especially when you play away against such a good opponent like Russia,” Novaković said.
“We’ve been in Moscow before so we know what to expect, even though we have a group of new players that will debut in a competitive Test match. That being said, as current holders of European Championship B we are seen as favourites so we have to play like one, with confidence, structure and desire to win.”
The good news for the visitors is that two key players return in captain Dalibor Vukanović and centre Stevan Stevanović , both from Dorcol, who have missed almost an entire year with injuries. Doncaster’s Jason Muranka also plays, alongside Vladica Nikolić from Villeneuve. The Serbian U19s skipper Vladimir Milutinović is also included in the squad.
The nations have met twice before in World Cup qualifiers, Russia winning in 2006 and 2011, both games in Belgrade. The last fixture between them was also in the Serbian capital in this same competition three years ago, Serbia triumphing 20-15, their first victory over Russia at the eighth time of asking.
Bears’ head coach Denis Korolev commented: “The game with Spain unfortunately did not work out as we had planned. For us it was not only the first game in the championship, but also the first one in the last two years. The Serbian team is the leader of our group and it will not be easy. We have tried to make adjustments in training and I hope that the second match will show this.”
RUSSIA 19-MAN SQUAD
Denis, Tuilenev, Nikolay Zagoskin (CSKA), Ilia Danilov, Veacheslav Eremin, Pavel Mrachkovskiy, (Dynamo), Igor Abramov, Kirill Bozhko, Kirill Kosharin, Dmitrii Leskov, Vladislav Lesnikov, Aleksander Lysokon, Aleksander Naumov, Iustin Petrushka, Ivan Troitskiy, Boris Voloskov (MIFI), Igor Chuprin (Olimp), Dmitrii Tarasenkov, (Spartak), Evgeniy Orlov (Sparta – Kostroma), Sergey Konstantinov © (Vereya)
SERBIAN 19-MAN SQUAD
Jason Muranka (Doncaster RLFC, UK), Miloš Aleksić, Stevan Stevanović, Dalibor Vukanović, (Dorcel), Ronaldo Bitići, Džavid Jašari, Vlado Kušić, Vladimir Milutinović, Mihajlo Stojiljković, Nikola Srbljanin, (Partizan) Djordje Stošić (Radnicki /Soko), Vladislav Dedić, Vojislav Dedić, Aleksandar Djordjević, Predrag Keglić, Petar Milanović, Rajko Trifunović, Miloš Zogović (Red Star), Vladica Nikolić (Villenueve XIII Leopards France)