John Kear: Rugby League World Cup qualification 'crucial' for Wales

Wales' Rhodri Lloyd in action against France
Wales beat France, Ireland and Scotland to become 2015 European champions

Wales coach John Kear says qualifying for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup is crucial for the game's development in the country.

The reigning European champions host Serbia in Llanelli on Saturday and face Italy away on Saturday, 29 October.

The group winners will reach the finals while the runners-up will play against the second-placed side in the group containing Ireland, Spain and Russia.

"The games against Serbia and Italy are absolutely vital," Kear said.

"We are doing many things correctly domestically and I think that's got to be reflected by the fact we're going to be at the World Cup."

Under former coach Iestyn Harris, Wales failed to reach the World Cup quarter-finals in 2013 after they were defeated by Italy, the United States and the Cook Islands.

Kear will be without Warrington Wolves' Rhys Evans and Ben Flower of Wigan Warriors, who are unavailable after playing in the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford.

"They are bound to be a loss but I think if you look at any of the squads there's always the odd player who's missing after a long season," Kear added.

"I'm just really pleased with the squad we've got for this campaign because I feel it's got a mixture of youth, experience and quality within there."

Wales squad: Elliot Kear (London Broncos), Rhys Williams (London Broncos), Calvin Wellington(St Helens), Christiaan Roets (South Wales Ironmen), Regan Grace (St Helens), Courtney Davies (South Wales Ironmen), Ollie Olds (Souths Logan Magpies), Gil Dudson (Widnes Vikings), Lloyd White (Widnes Vikings), Craig Kopczak (Salford Red Devils - captain), Rhodri Lloyd (Swinton Lions), Lewis Reece (Gloucestershire All Golds), Phil Joseph (Salford Red Devils), Steve Parry (Gloucestershire All Golds), Joe Burke (Oldham Roughyeds), Jake Emmitt (Swinton Lions), Anthony Walker (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats), Andrew Gay (Mackay Cutters), Matty Fozard (Sheffield Eagles), Morgan Evans (Gloucestershire All Golds), Ian Newbury (South Wales Ironmen), Connor Farrer (South Wales Ironmen)