TOM Sibley is eager to see how much rugby league in Serbia has progressed since he toured the country with the England Lionhearts 13 years ago.

The Millom player-coach was part of the Lionhearts squad for the historic 2006 tour, which saw the side made up of players from the community game play two games against the Serbian national team.

Those matches in Belgrade and Novi Sad resulted in 46-6 and 50-4 victories for the England team, and Sibley will once again find himself up against Eastern European opponents after the Woolybacks were drawn against Red Star Belgrade in the Challenge Cup.

Sibley admitted the club had considered not entering the Cup this year due an increase in the number of fixtures in National Conference League Division Three, but is delighted they decided to and is relishing the chance to take on the Serbians again.

“We were a bit unsure about entering this year’s competition with the number of fixtures increasing in our league, but when you get a draw like this, there is no doubt everyone should want to enter into the Challenge Cup,” said Sibley.

“I was lucky enough to tour Serbia with England Lionhearts in 2006 and the people made us very welcome, and Belgrade was a great place to visit.

“Everyone involved in rugby will be looking at this game and it will be good to see how far the domestic game has developed in Serbia.”

Millom go into the tie on the back of a strong 2018 season which saw them narrowly miss out on promotion to NCL Division Two in the play-offs.

There are plenty of promising young players making their way through at Devonshire Road too, evidenced by the A team reaching the final of last year’s Harry Warman Cup, where they were beaten by Dalton.

Sibley will be putting his faith in youngsters like Scotland under-19 internationals Charlie Emslie and Connor Terrill for the clash with Red Star, backed up by the experienced heads at the club.

He is in no doubt those up-and-coming players will benefit hugely from the clash with Red Star whatever the result and is looking forward to the team performing in front of a bumper crowd.

“We have a very young side, but the experience they will gain from this fixture will be with them for life,” said Sibley.

“We have worked hard so far in pre-season and are expecting Red Star to be very physical and they have some dangerous players to watch out for.

“I’m sure the Millom supporters will be down in numbers to give Red Star a very warm welcome.”