Russia withdrawn from 2021 World Cup qualifying

James Gordon

Scotland will play Serbia in the final round of 2021 World Cup qualifying after Russia withdrew.

Serbia will travel to Glasgow on October 26 before hosting Greece in Belgrade on November 9, with the top two nations going through to the World Cup draw on November 27.

Russia had previously beaten Serbia 36-18 in Moscow to secure their place in the European play-off.

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.

“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.”

Scotland will play Greece at the New River Stadium in London on November 1 in what is Group B of the European play-off.

The top two will qualify, along with the top two from Group A, which consists of Ireland, Italy and Spain.