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Harris happy with Welsh foundations

Wales coach Iestyn Harris is looking forward to seeing his "authentic" Welsh team make their mark in the Rugby League World Cup, starting with the opening day clash with Italy.
Harris happy with Welsh foundations
by AAP

By Ian Laybourn

CARDIFF, Oct 25 PA - Wales coach Iestyn Harris is looking forward to seeing his "authentic" Welsh team make their mark in the Rugby League World Cup, starting with the opening day clash with Italy.

Harris was in the Wales team that reached the semi-finals in 1995 and 2000 but admits that short-lived success was largely down to an unhealthy reliance on such rugby union converts as Paul Moriarty, John Devereux, Jonathan Davies, Scott Gibbs and Scott Quinnell.

The national rugby league team was left threadbare when the conversions dried up after rugby union went professional and Welsh fortunes hit rock bottom when they failed to qualify for the last World Cup in 2008.

Since then, however, strong foundations have been laid and Harris has been able to call on eight Welsh-born players for his campaign, which gets under way in Cardiff on Saturday against an Italian team comprising entirely of Australia-born players.

"It's 13 years since Wales were last in a World Cup and it's a different type of group," Harris told a press conference at the Millennium Stadium, where his squad trained on Friday morning.

"What we have got now is a lot of home-grown talent that has come through the system. There is a real sense of authenticity about the squad.

"If you look underneath Wales rugby league nationally, there's a pool of maybe 150 players playing the game at a very good standard. We're very comfortable with where we are as a nation at this moment in time.

"Our 16s, 18s and 20s are extremely strong and our target is that, by the 2017 World Cup, we've got a pool of 60 to 100 competitive players playing at the top level."

Harris believes his current crop of players have a glorious opportunity to raise the profile of the game still further but knows they face a difficult opening hurdle against the Azzurri, who pulled off a shock win over England last Saturday.

"We know Italy have got a lot of quality. They've got a lot of NRL experience. They obviously had a fantastic result against England so we know it's a formidable task.

"Our challenge is to get to our best as quickly as we possibly can. That's what we've been working on for the last two weeks and, if we hit the ground running, then we can't have any complaints."

Wales (probable): R Evans (Warrington); R Williams (Warrington), R Lloyd (Wigan), T Frizzell (St George Illawarra), E Kear (Bradford); L White (Widnes), M Seamark (Wynnum Manly); C Kopczak (Huddersfield, capt), N Budworth (Moranbah Miners), G Dudson (Wigan), L Patrick (Huddersfield), B Evans (Bradford), B Flower (Wigan).

Replacements (from): I Webster (Central Queensland), J James (Salford), A Walker (St Helens), J Emmitt (Salford), R Divorty (Halifax), P Lupton (Workington).

Italy: A Minichiello (Sydney Roosters, capt); J Mantellato (Newcastle Knights), J Tedesco (Wests Tigers), A Guerra (Sydney Roosters), J Saltonstall (Warrington); R Ghetti (Northern Pride), T Maccan (Tweed Head Seagulls); A Laffranchi (St Helens), D Parata (Parramatta), P Vaughan (Canberra), M Minichiello (Gold Coast), B Santi (Parramatta), J Riethmuller (North Queensland).

Replacements: B Falcone (South Logan), G Hiscox (Central Coast Capras), G Celerino (North West Roosters, Italy), S Gardel (South Logan), C Calegari (Lezignan), Chris Centrino (North Sydney Bears), C Ciraldo (Penrith), F Ciaurro (Coventry Bears), R Nasso (Avignon), B Musalino (Manly), R Tramonte (Windsor Wolves).

Referee: Ashley Klein (Australia).


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