Derby pair's hopes high as they start new season with Cypriot national side
DERBY duo Dan Thrasivoulou and Luke Frixou set off on a new European adventure with Cyprus this weekend.
Following back-to-back promotions, the Moufflons get their 2012-14 FIRA-AER European Nations Cup Division 2C campaign under way today against Austria in Vienna.
And hopes are high that the Cypriots can continue their upward progression through the ranks.
Half-back Thrasivoulou, who turned 27 last week, is in line to win his 15th cap.
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Duffield-based teenage forward Frixou, who recently played a couple of games on loan at Championship side Nottingham, only made his senior international debut earlier this year.
"It's the start of another journey for us and everyone is excited about it," said Thrasivoulou, from Allestree.
"We've come a long way over the past four or five years and we're going into today's game full of confidence.
"We've got a few new caps due to us missing some important players with injury.
"However, the squad is roughly the same as what we finished with last season and we've got plenty of strength in depth."
As well as aiming for promotion, there are a couple of other goals on the horizon.
If Cyprus top their division at the halfway point of the campaign in April, they will earn the chance to compete in the early stages of qualification for the 2015 World Cup.
And three more wins would see the team set a new world record for consecutive international victories.
The current record of 18 wins is held by Lithuania.
"We want to put down a marker and get off to a good start, in order to put us in a position to be involved in the World Cup qualifiers next year," said Thrasivoulou.
"We need to be top of the group at the halfway stage. If we can do that, we would play the leaders of the division below us, then the teams at the top of the divisions above us.
"Then, if we get that far, we could end up in with the likes of Romania, Portugal and Georgia.
"We've also got the world record for consecutive victories to go for.
"New Zealand got to 16 before they drew with Australia recently.
"We're on 15 at the moment and we need to get to 18 to get the record."
Austria last month lost their opening game 12-7 away to another newly-promoted side, Bulgaria.
Cyprus thrashed Bulgaria 94-3 and 55-8 when the sides met in Division 2D.
"Austria lost their opening game to Bulgaria, who we put 94 points on last season," said Thrasivoulou, who has been turning out for Derby seconds.
"So there's no reason why we can't keep our winning run going and go up again.
"We've never played Austria before, so it's a new test for us.
"It's likely to be pretty cold over there, which will be a bit of a shock for the lads who live in Cyprus!
"I would have thought they will have a few ex-pats in their squad too.
"We've watched some videos of them and they look similar to a lot of teams we've come up against before.
"The first 20 minutes could be tough but, hopefully, our rugby heads will kick in and we'll be OK after that.
"Our aim is to get a bonus point victory."
The Moufflons' first home game is against Slovenia next month but Thrasivoulou and Frixou will both be missing as they are due to compete in the Dubai Sevens tournament.
"Cyprus are entering a team in the second-tier event in Dubai, which should be a great experience for us.
"Unfortunately, it means we will miss the Slovenia game but it wouldn't be possible to do both."