14 May 2015

Serbia look to hold on to their lead at the top of the table against their nearest rivals, as European Championship B recommences this weekend in Belgrade. There is added incentive as the top three teams in Euro B will progress to the 2016 European Qualifiers for the following year’s World Cup. Serbia is yet to beat Russia in seven attempts, but head coach Marko Janković’s team finished the first half of the competition as the form team and are confident of victory.

“We had a tough task picking the squad after the first part of the Serbian first division and the British Lionhearts tour,” said Jankovic. “The players named in the squad fully deserve our trust and, I believe, the same amount of respect from the opposition as we give them. We have a few more training sessions to pick the right team for Saturday and we hope that, with supporters behind us, we can perform as we expect to.”

Dynamic Dewsbury Rams second rower Jason Muranka is called up for the first time to represent his grandfather’s homeland. The top three Serbian clubs, Dorcol, Red Star and Partizan, all send five players in a squad that is once more led by experienced halfback Dalibor Vukanovic.

Russia’s Igor Ovchinnikov, who returned for his second spell as national team coach at the start of the competition last April, has only suffered defeat once - at the hands of Italy - and has overseen the most detailed preparation of the squad since his time back in charge. Nevertheless, he expects stiff opposition from the Serbians.

“Our first official game of the year will, I’m sure, see an 80-minute struggle between the two sides,” said the Lokomotiv Moscow coach. “Serbia has shown time and again that they are a very tough, stubborn, tightly-knit team that always plays from the first to the last minute. Woe betide the team that underestimates them. Their match against Italy [in 2014], when the Serbians won a landslide victory, is proof of that. We watched the game, analysed the Serbian team and are preparing very seriously for this match.”

Ovchinnikov’s squad is selected almost entirely from Loko and Vereya players, with three-quarter Dmitry Bratko from Moscow Magi, the lone exception. Long-serving scrum-half Eduard Ososkov has hung up his boots, while experienced fullback Maxime Suchkov is injured. Georgy Vinogradov and Anton Zabelin have not played for Russia since Evgeny Klebanov resigned as head coach in 2009, with Vinogradov last playing for Russia against Serbia in September 2008.

Winger Bakhodur Mamadzhanov is called up for the first time alongside Otahuhu Rovers product Dima Ivanouchkine (pictured, in action for Vereya), who was brought up in New Zealand from the age of five after his parents toured there with the Moscow State Circus. He is in Russia to gain international experience before heading home to pursue his ambition of becoming a professional player.

The match will be live streamed:


Miloš Calic, Vladislav Dedic, Vojislav Dedic, Miodrag Tomic,  Miloš Zogovic (Crvena Zvezda),  Jason Muranka (Dewsbury Rams), Stefan Nedeljkovic, Aleksa Radic, Dalibor Samardic, Stevan Stevanovic, Dalibor Vukanovic (Dorcol), Stefan Ilic, Dragan Jankovic, Dzavid Jašari, Vlado Kušic, Nikola Srbljanin (Partizan), Zarko Kovacevic, Pero Madcarevic (Radnicki Nova Pazova), Vladica Nikolic (Roanne XIII), Stefan Nikolic (Tašmajdan Tigrovi)

Valentin Baskakov, Artem Grigoryan, Ruslan Izmaylov, Kirill Kosharin, Bakhodur Mamadzhanov, Vladimir Odnosumov, Roman Ovtchinnikov, Georgy Vinogradov, Anton Zabelin, Andrey Zdobnikov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Dmitriy Bratko, (Magi), Rustam Bulanov, Mikhail Burlutskiy, Dmitri Ivanouchkine, Sergey Konstantinov, Denis Korolev, Aleksandr Lysokon, Vladimir Vlasyuk (Vereya)