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Senior International Match

Cotric, Opacic send messages of support to Serbia ahead of international against France

Published by FFR/Euro RL
17 Sep 2023

Canberra Raiders winger Nick Cotric and Hull KR centre Tom Opacic have sent their support to the Serbian team ahead of the September 24 international against France at Stadion FK Obilic, Beograd, Belgrade (kick off 2pm, local time).

Cotric, who played for the Kangaroos in 2019, has Serbian heritage through his mother, Draga, who was born in Belgrade, and father David, whose father immigrated to Australia from the Balkan nation.

He has the Serbian coat of arms tattooed on his left shoulder.

Opacic, who played for the Broncos, Cowboys and Eels in the NRL before moving to Super League, qualifies for Serbia through his father and has previously expressed a desire to represent the White Eagles.

Tom Opacic has expressed a desire to play for Serbia (NRL Photos)

The pair recorded separate video messages of support for the team, which were posted on Serbia's social media accounts.

"Hey boys, I just want to wish you all the best for the game against France on Sunday," Cotric said.

"Just give it all you've got, make sure you boys run hard, tackle hard and do it for each other. It doesn't matter about the result, just give it all you have got for the jersey."

Opacic said: "I just want to wish you all the best for this game. Rip into these Frenchies. I want to see you get the win and I might get myself a hoodie or something to follow you".

Serbia are ranked 10th in the IRL World Rankings and are hoping to qualify for the 2026 World Cup to be played in the Southern Hemisphere.

Nick Cotric has Serbian heritage on both sides of his family (NRL Photos)

France are ranked ninth and are looking to increase their depth, with the squad named to play Serbia essentially made up of young talent from the Elite 1 competition.

Serbia and France have named their squads for tomorrow’s (Sunday) men’s senior international for world ranking points at Stadion FK Obilic, Beograd, Belgrade (kick off 2pm, local time).

The match commemorates the start of rugby league in the former Yugoslavia in 1953 when two French sides travelled to Belgrade to introduce the sport.

“We are really excited to host France here in Belgrade for a great anniversary,” noted Serbia head coach, Darren Fisher.

“If we want life in the top ten of the rankings, we must at least compete, and that is what we hope from the game. We know this will be very tough for us which is exciting and will enable us to see the level of our domestic players. They’ll enjoy the experience and it will help us develop further.”

After selecting an expanded squad of 34 players, the FFR announced the 19 men to travel to Serbia under Maxime Grésèque, who will lead the French team as Laurent Frayssinous has Super League commitments with St Helens. 

“We are going to prepare very seriously for this Test match which is important for the preparation of future international events and especially the world ranking," Grésèque said.

"I felt the players were motivated, proud and eager to have fun on the pitch together.”

The French team have visited the Serbian Sports Fair in the build up.

“It is an honour to play in this game and what it represents," Grésèque said. "It is very important for both teams in terms of the rankings. We are very much looking forward to it to see how we go.”


Luka Stosic (Arsenal Tivat, Montenegro), Aleksandar Pavlovic, Dragan Jankovic, Dzavid Jasari, Enis Bibic, Strahinja Stojiljkovic (Partisan Belgrade), Mihailo Tomic (Radnicki Belgrade), Marko Cuk, Mihajlo Jovic, Stefan Arsic (Radnicki Nis), Denis Cengaj, Marko Jankovic, Miodrag Tomic, Nikola Djuric, Rajko Trifunovic, Vladislav Dedic, Vojislav Dedic, Vuk Strbac (Red Star Belgrade), Vlado Kusic (R.C. Salon, France)


Nittim Pedrero (Albi), Louis Carré (Avignon), Clément Herrero, Clément Boyer (C) (Carcassonne), Matthieu Laguerre, César Rougé, Bastien Scimone, Ugo Tison (Dragons Catalans), Lucas Vergniol, Justin Bouscayrol, Yann Belmaaziz, Quentin Crunel (Limouxin), Florian Vailhen, Mathias Marty (Pia), Enzo Griffier (R.C. Salon), Corentin Rey, Corentin Le Cam, Franck Maria, Léo Laurent (Saint Esteve)

The match will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the trips by France A and France Students to Belgrade to establish rugby league in the then Yugoslavia.

The two French sides played each other at Partisan Belgrade stadium on September 26, 1953 in front of a crowd of over 8,000, with the A team the victors in a 43-41 encounter.

Later that year on 1st November, Partisan Belgrade Rugby League club was created as a legal entity. 

“We are thrilled that the French national team will return to Belgrade to celebrate 70 years of the sport being introduced in the region,” said Vladan Kikanovic, general secretary of the Serbian Rugby League Federation.

"It is a huge honour for us to host France and I am sure that it will be a match and an occasion to remember for the rugby league community here.”

Since the rebirth of the Serbian men’s national team in the early 2000s, the two countries have met a total of four times, with a steady improvement shown each time by the Baltic nation.

In the latest World Rankings to 30th June 2023, Serbia were tenth and France ninth, the closest they have been.

“It is very exciting for our players to be travelling to Serbia to celebrate this anniversary” added Gilles Dumas, Performance Director of the FFRXIII. “I know it will be a great moment for the 70th Anniversary of Rugby League’s birth in Serbia.”

Below is from the original article published 4/9/2023

France had earlier announced an expanded squad of young players and stars from the Elite 1 competition to prepare for the upcoming international against Serbia in Belgrade on September 24.

The group of 34 players will meet on September 21 in Perpignan and will be reduced to 19 before leaving for Serbia. Maxime Grésèque will take charge of the French team in Belgrade.

“We leave with a group of promising young players who will proudly wear the jersey of the French team in Serbia," Grésèque said.

"We are going to prepare for this meeting with a lot of seriousness and desire. This match counts for the international ranking and we will have to make a result there to gain points."

France squad:

Evan Albert (FC Lézignan XIII); Ludovic Artiga (Carcassonne XIII), Alan Baby (Pia XIII), Yan Belmaaziz (XIII Limouxin), Clément Boyer (Carcassonne XIII), Justin Bouscayrol (XIII Limouxin), Robin Brochon (Toulouse Olympique XIII), Louis Carre (SO Avignon XIII ), Quentin Crunel (XIII Limouxin), Tristan Depuy (Albi XIII RL), Romain Franco (Wakefield Trinity), Jordan Flovie (FC Lézignan XIII), Enzo Griffier (RC Salon XIII), Clément Herrero (Carcassonne XIII), Benjamin Jullien (Pia XIII), Matthieu Laguerre (Catalan Dragons), Léo Laurent (Saint-Estève XIII Catalan), Corentin Le Cam (Saint-Estève XIII Catalan), Léo Llong (Saint-Estève XIII Catalan), Franck Maria (Saint-Estève XIII Catalan), Mathias Marty (Pia XIII), Paul Marty (Saint-Estève XIII Catalan), Anthony Ors (FC Lézignan XIII), Nittim Pedrero (Albi XIII RL), Corentin Rey (Saint-Estève XIII Catalan), César Rouge (Catalan Dragons), Mendy Saloty (SO Avignon XIII), Hugo Salabio (Wakefield Trinity), Bastien Scimone (Saint-Estève XIII Catalan), Ugo Tison (Catalan Dragons), Justin Tropis (Toulouse Olympique XIII), Florian Vailhen (Pia XIII), Lucas Vergniol (XIII Limouxin), Tanguy Zenon (Saint-Estève XIII Catalan).