Italy, Lebanon, Russia and Serbia have unveiled their squads for next month’s 2013 Rugby League World Cup European Zone Qualifiers.
Joint-captained by Anthony Minichiello (see photo) and Cameran Cirarldo, the Italian’s kick off the round robin tournament when they host Russia in Padova on the 15th October. Vice president Fabio Di Pietro noted that being on the road to the world stage is a massive achievement. “Just three years ago when the F.I.R.L established the Italian rugby league, it was unthinkable that we would participate in the world cup qualification. We have made great progress but there is still a lot of work to be done to develop rugby league to the highest level within the country.”
As well as their skippers, the Azzurri have also called up Vic Mauro and Joel Reithmuller from the NRL while Rocky Trimarchi is a former Crusader and new Harlequins recruit Craig Gower is set to become a dual international.
Lebanon head coach David Bayssari’s 30-man squad contains a solid mix of experienced internationals and a number of young players looking to make their mark at elite level. “Our expatriate Lebanese have been training particularly hard in Australia and I know the training in Lebanon has been equally intense,” said Bayssari. “I look forward to getting the final squad together but I am enthused by efforts of everyone to date.” George Ndaira, star of the Cedars’ 2007 qualifying campaign, which fell one game short when they were beaten by Samoa, has pulled out of the squad due to work responsibilities but several seasoned green, red and whites are named including forwards Chris Saab and Charlie Farah, team-mates from the 2002 Mediterranean Cup side, which was the first international played on Lebanese soil. “I expect a match hardened, solid group of players to be ready for our first game on October 16,” continued Bayssari. “Their desire to represent Lebanon gives me hope for the weeks ahead”.
Dinamo, RBK and Storm from Moscow, RC Vereya of the Moscow region and Nevskaya Zastava based in St. Petersburg form the bulk of the Russian selection in what is an experienced group. Player/coach Eduard Ososkov is set to win his 11th cap while skipper Alexandr Lysokon played eight games for Sharlston Rovers in 2011. Bears Team Manager Sergey Kashutin commented, “We are full on in preparation for the games, helped by Stuart Wilkinson. The team has conducted several training camps using the facilities at RC Vereya in the suburbs of Moscow. We had a good warm up in the Slavic Cup beating Ukraine and are looking forward to playing against the three strong teams.”
Adam Nedić leads seven uncapped players in the Serbian squad. The nineteen-year-old from Canberra is also one of only three overseas selections. Dorcol Spiders, who were crowned domestic champions for the tenth time last weekend supply the backbone with 12 inclusions. Five more domestic clubs have at least two representatives in what is expected to be the youngest side of the four. Captain Dalibor Vukanović along with Soni Radovanović will again lead the squad. Former international emerging nations’ Player of the Year nominee Zoran Pešić will take part in his eighth consecutive season in Serbian colours, the powerful hooker having earned 20 consecutive caps since his international debut in the 2004 Mediterranean Cup in Lebanon.
Lee Crooks, the Serbian technical director, believes that history beckons for his youngsters. "Both myself and Marko Janković, our head coach, are looking forward to the challenge which lies ahead of us. I am sure that I can speak on behalf of the Serbian Board when I say how proud we are that 27 of our 30 man squad play in the Serbian domestic league which is a massive plus for how far the competition has come in a short time." Liam Higgins was included in the initial train-on squad but the Wakefield Trinity Wildcats forward has a pressing engagement with the imminent birth of his first child. It is expected that he will feature in future internationals for the country of his mother’s birth.
The winner of the six match series joins Scotland and Tonga in group B of the 2013 World Cup to be staged in England and Wales.
Matthew Sands, Giacomo Simioni (Grifons PD); Craig Gower (Harlequins RL); Christophe Calegari (Lezignan); Vic Mauro (Manly Sea Eagles); Dom Nasso (Monto); Matt Parrata (Mt Isa); Cameron Ciraldo (Newcastle Knights); Ryan Ghetti (Northern Pride); Joel Riethmuller (North Queensland Cowboys); Alex Ranieri (North Sydney Bears); Jean Christophe Borlin (Saint Gaudens); Ryan Tramonte (St Patricks Blacktown); Anthony Minichiello (c) (Sydney Roosters); Ray Nasso, Cederic Prizzon (Villefranche de Rouergue); Ben Falcone (Wentworth); Rocky Trimarchi (Western Suburbs); Rhys Lennarduzzi (Wests); Ben Stewart (Windsor Wolves); Juan Pablo Carrara, Fabrizio Ciaurro, Thomas Covati, Giovanni Franchi, Romain Pavoni, Dean Vicelich, Santiago Monteagudo, Rob Quitadamo(XIII del Ducato); Josh Mantellato (Wyong), Jonathan Marcinzack.
Adam Nedić (Belconnen United Scholars RLFC), Nenad Radević, Aleksandar Sič, Miloš Zogović (Car Lazar), Danilo Delić, Vladan Kikanović, Dejan Lukenić, Stefan Nedeljković, Stefan Nikolić, Soni Radovanović (vicecapt.), Stevan Stevanović, Ivan Šušnjara, Milan Šušnjara, Vuk Tvrdišić, Nikša Unković, Dalibor Vukanović (capt.) (Dorćol), Ilija Radan (Hemel Hempstead RLFC), Marko Milenković, Lazar Živković (Niš), Austen Novaković (Oldham RLFC), Nemanja Cojić, Pero Madžarević, Radovan Tajsić, Slaviša Zekić (Radnički Nova Pazova), Miloš Ćalić, Ivan Djordjević, Zoran Pešić, Nebojša Živanović (Red Star Belgrade), Aleksandar Aleksić, Mirko Božović (Stari Grad)
Andrey Zdobnikov (Dinamo), Grigory Esin (Nevskaya Zastava), Valentin Baskakov, Artem Grigoryan, Ruslan Izmaylov, Sergey Matveev, Denis Nikolskiy, Vladimir Odnosumov (RBK), Igor Chuprin, Vadim Fedchuk, Vladimir Gotsulyak, Alexey Volkov (Storm), Petr Botnarash, Rustam Bulanov, Mikhail Burlutskuy, Ilgiz Galimov, Sergey Gapinov, Anatoly Grigoriev, Sergey Konstantinov, Aleksander Lysokon, Alexey Nikolaev, Eduard Ososkov, Roman Safronov, Andrey Sevostyanov, Maksim Suchkov, Vladimir Vlasyuk (RC Vereya)
Allen Soultan, Samer Nehme (Balamand); Nick Kassis (Cabramatta); Steve Azzi (Canterbury Bulldogs); Johnny Mannah (Cronulla Sharks); Youssef El Helou, (Jounieh RLFC); Kamel Ahmed (Kingsgrove colts); Ibrahim Ballout, Robin Hachache, Rudy Hachache, Walid Yassine (LAU Immortals RLFC); Ray Moujalli (Manly Sea Eagles); George Azzi, Adham El Zabedieh, Adnan El Zabedieh (Mounties); Charlie Farah (Narrabeen); Jamie Clark, Khaled Deeb, Ahmed Ellaz (Newtown Jets); Danny Barakat, Daniel Chiha, Nadim Couri, Ali Kourouche, Chris Saab, Adnan Saleh (St John’s Eagles); Cliff Nye, James Boustani (Wentworthville) Monir Finan, Ray Finan, Nemer Saliba (Wolves RLFC)