John Kear: Wales coach 'not thinking' about World Cup play-off

John Kear
John Kear won the Challenge Cup with Sheffield Eagles in 1998 and Hull FC in 2005
2017 Rugby League World Cup qualifier: Italy v Wales
Venue: Stadio Brianteo, Monza Date: Saturday, 29 October Kick-off: 15:30 BST

Wales head coach John Kear says they are focused on qualifying automatically for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup and avoiding a play-off.

Kear's side face Italy in Monza on Saturday and the winners will qualify for next year's tournament.

The group runners-up will face Ireland or Russia in a play-off on Friday, 4 November in Leigh.

"We know that's the safety valve but we don't want the safety valve," Kear told BBC Wales Sport.

"We're not talking about that and we're not thinking about that."

Wales are the reigning European champions and kicked off their World Cup qualifying campaign with a comfortable 50-0 win against Serbia, who went on to lose 62-14 to the Italians.

Kear was disappointed with aspects of Wales' 16-16 draw with Jamaica in a friendly in Wakefield last Friday although they extended their unbeaten run to five games.

But the former Hull FC and current Batley Bulldogs coach has been pleased with the response of his players in training.

"There's certainly been an element of focus and intensity in the training sessions and I think it's kicked us up the backside," Kear said.

"Italy have got a really good team that's littered with Super League and NRL experience so it will be a fair old challenge. They've got some good quality personnel and looked a good solid side when they played Serbia.

"These are pressure games and the type of games you want to be involved with as players and as coaches. We've got to be nailing these types of games."

Kear has a number of injury worries ahead of Saturday's game in Monza but is definitely without half-back Ollie Olds.

Olds, who plays for Souths Logan Magpies in Australia, scored two tries in the win over Serbia but is out with a broken hand.

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