Not sure how Warrington Wolves fans ecstatic at returning to Wembley after an age away, will greet the news that their Head Coach, Tony Smith, is taking a break from Wembley preparations to jet to a coaching workshop in Belgrade.
“The positivity, energy, passion and enthusiasm of the players, coaches and administrators was a major factor in me wanting to stay involved with developments in Europe
Smith is undertaking coaching workshops with sides competing in the European Under 16’s Championships, which begin on Tuesday.
Laudable as that may be, it’s a mighty risk to take with public perception ahead of the Wolves biggest game in decades.
For the record: His visit follows on from a similar one he undertook last year to Prague to work with national Under 18 sides and will also include official functions that will help raise the profile of the code in Serbia.
“Last year was a fantastic experience for me and an incredibly worthwhile cause”
“I made some lasting friendships, some of which I will re-kindle while I am over there.”
“The positivity, energy, passion and enthusiasm of the players, coaches and administrators was a major factor in me wanting to stay involved with developments in Europe, particularly with the young players, and I am keen to do anything I can to aid the spread of the sport.”
Smith departs early on Tuesday morning and will spend time in the Serbian capital watching matches, carrying out coaching seminars and on-field practical work for the six nations involved, particularly the ‘Euro Celts’ side which will be made up of players and management from Germany, Czech Republic, Ireland and Russia.
Also travelling out is French national coach Bobby Goulding to check on the best young talent coming through in the country. Rugby League Executive & Development Executive Kevin Rudd said:
“I am delighted that we will have both senior international coaches from England and France in attendance, it adds further prestige and kudos to developments within Europe.”
“John Dixon from Wales will of course be coming to Serbia later in the year as part of the senior European Cup when Wales play there.”
“Tony has been very supportive and shown again his passion for overseas development by agreeing to take part.”
“This is a great opportunity for the Serbian RL to show how they are moving ahead both on and off the field in terms of their organisation. It is a major challenge for any nation hosting these events and I am sure they will build on their previous experience.”
Six nations will take part in the tournament after Russia confirmed that they would not be involved in the Shield. The Russian Federation have advised that due to a breakdown of communication in the Russian RL Board and loss of sponsors for the event, they have had to withdraw at short notice. A statement was issued on behalf of the Russian RL saying:
“We deeply regret the inconvenience caused to the hosts Serbia and the other teams within the tournament”.
Kevin Rudd added,
“Russian RL is going through some tough times and the RLEF will support them and monitor the situation.”
“However, on a more positive note, they have still managed to send four players, a coaching official and referee across to compete within the Euro Celts team.”
Meanwhile, the hosts have had their squad in training at a five day youth camp in the Kapaonik Mountains. Funded by the Serbian Ministry of youth and sport, Serbian Rugby League director for youth development Marko Zeravica said that he was,
“pleased with the camp and potential of all the boys who participated.”