Serbia make two changes following their opening round defeat in Wales, as they face Italy at the Makis Stadium in Belgrade tomorrow (22/10/16 kick off 3pm local time).
The hosts, who have to win if they are to make the final qualifier in Leigh on 4 November, have drafted in Red Star’s Miodrag Tomic to replace injury victim Vladica Nikolic of Villeneuve. Also out is winger Pero Madzarevic, suspended for one match following his trip on Elliot Kear in Llanelli, to be replaaced by Stefan Nedeljkovic who has recovered from his knock.
“We have had a whole week to reflect and refresh after the exhausting game against Wales,” commented national team coach, Ljubomir Bukvic. “We would have preferred if the margin had not been so big, because we had such a strong first half, but Wales punished our mistakes. And Italy are another quality side, who played in the last World Cup, so we are aware of our task.”
This will be the seventh meeting of the nations, with Serbia having won the previous two encounters in the last European Championship B, triumphing 45-6 in Belgrade and coming up with one of their best-ever victories, 20-15 in Gemona. The two sides also met in the 2013 World Cup qualifiers, Italy winning 52-6 in Belgrade.
Terry Campese is set to be one of eight debutants in the Italian squad having played the last Super League season with Hull KR although club colleague Josh Mantellato is out injured. Having missed the 2013 World Cup due to injury despite selection for the Azzurri squad, Campese is keen to make his mark before taking up a player/coach post back in Canberra.
“I’m very happy being a part of the Italian national team,” he said from the team’s base in Belgrade. “Playing for World Cup qualification is a big personal challenge. I was curious to see what the environment and the team would be like, and pleased to find a very professional group with a lot of desire to win and to improve.”
Itay’s surprise inclusion is three-quarter, Mirco Bergamasco, who played 89 times for Italy rugby union scoring 256 points.
“Mirco is an athlete accustomed to play at the highest levels,” commented Campese. “Clearly the code change is never easy but he has been working hard with coach Cameron Ciraldo, the staff and the team, and I’m sure he will add value.
“The battle will be upfront, especially with the rain coming down in Belgrade, so we will have to be on top of our game to come away with the win we need to take with us to Monza, against Wales.”
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