The Serbian squad has arrived in Russia for the second match in European Championship B, to be played tomorrow (Saturday) at the Fily Stadium in Moscow. The competition also doubles as a qualifier for the 2021 World Cup in England.
The nations have met twice before in World Cup qualifiers. Russia won in 2006 and 2011, both games in Belgrade, while the most recent fixture between them, also played in the Serbian capital, was in this same competition three years ago. Serbia triumphed on that occasion, 20-15, their first victory over Russia at the eighth time of asking.
This time, a dispute over visas for heritage players from Australia- after a late change in regulations – has seen the Serbians arrive without any. Amongst those missing for the Serbians is their head coach, Brett Davidson so Radoslav Novaković is in charge for the clash.
“The first game in a competition like this always brings challenges,” said Novaković, “especially when you play away against such good opponents as Russia. We’ve been in Moscow before so we know what to expect, but we do have a group of new players this time who will be making their debuts in a highly competitive Test match. That being said, as current holders of European Championship B we are seen as favourites so we will have to play like favourites, with confidence, structure and desire to win.”
The good news for the Serbs is that two of their key players return. Their captain Dalibor Vukanović, and centre Stevan Stevanović (both from Dorcol) have both missed almost an entire year with injuries. Doncaster’s Jason Muranka also plays, alongside Vladica Nikolić from Villeneuve, while the Serbian U19s skipper Vladimir Milutinović is also included in the squad.
The Russians, having lost their opening game 32-24 in Spain last weekend, cannot afford a second defeat or they will be eliminated.
“The game with Spain unfortunately did not work out as we had planned,” commented Bears’ head coach, Denis Korolev. “For us it was not only the first game in the championship, it was our first one in the last two years. The Serbian team is the leader in Group B so it will not be easy but we have tried to make adjustments in training. I hope this second match will show that.”
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).