Serbia has replaced Russia in group two of the final European World Cup qualifiers, after the Russians were withdrawn.
Serbia will face now Scotland in Glasgow on 26th October and host Greece in Belgrade on 9 November, the top two nations making the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England.
Denis Koralev, president of the Russian Association of Rugby League Clubs commented: “This is not a sudden or unexpected decision, we have been in regular contact with the RLEF about our position, and need to re-boost the sport here.
“Rugby League is still being played but there are some domestic issues including constitution of the board that we need to look at.”
Tournament Director for the qualification games Chris Thair said: “Russia’s withdrawal is unfortunate, however, all parties agreed it was the right course of action. After expressing concerns over their preparations and readiness to play, I made a recommendation that was backed by the RLEF and approved by the RLIF board, who own the World Cup property.”
Thair added: “Serbia finished third in the European B competition compared to Norway who were second in European C, whose fixtures doubled as World Cup qualifiers. All the other nations have been kept abreast of matters throughout and I thank them for their patience and support - we even had the remarkable situation of the Serbian general secretary acting as our interpreter with the Russian Federation and trying to find solutions for Russia to stay in the competition, even though Serbia would be the beneficiaries if they withdrew.
“Every avenue was explored with Russia and we do wish to see a strong rugby league presence in the country. We have agreed a number of supportive measures with Denis. The RLEF will soon be advertising for a new board of directors on their behalf to take their federation forward into a new era.”