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Italy given rugby league World Cup boost

Wales will face an Italian team packed with seasoned Australian internationals when they launch the Rugby League World Cup at Cardiff a year from now.
Italy given rugby league World Cup boost
by NRL

By Ian Laybourn

LEEDS, England, Oct 26 PA - Wales will face an Italian team packed with seasoned Australian internationals when they launch the Rugby League World Cup at Cardiff a year from now.

Sydney Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello, 32, who played for the Azzuri in 1999 before winning the first of his 19 caps for the Kangaroos, will lead Italy's first World Cup campaign after reverting to the country of his ancestry.

Italy, who will take on the co-hosts in the opening match of a double-header at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on October 26, 2013, could have as many as four other ex-Australian internationals in their ranks.

Carlo Napolitano, a former Salford forward who is a member of Italy's coaching staff, has also secured the services of London Broncos' former Australian halfback Craig Gower and St Helens forward Anthony Laffranchi and hopes to snare two other big names in Terry Campese and Shaun Berrigan.

Minichiello confirmed his country's bold ambitions at a press conference at MediaCityUK in Salford to mark the countdown to the 2013 World Cup.

Speaking to journalists online, Minichiello said: "This is a major opportunity for Italy Rugby League.

"They've got a competition up and running in Italy and we're really excited about taking part in the first game of the World Cup.

"I think we've got a lot of top guys on board, people like Anthony Laffranchi and Craig Gower are really committed.

"Terry Campese is a big target for us and Shaun Berrigan is qualified so we're trying to get him on board as well."

A delegation will head to Queanbeyan in the next few weeks to sound out Campese, nephew of former Wallabies winger David Campese, who made his debut for Australia in the 2008 World Cup but has played little football over the past two seasons because of injury.

A Gower-Campese halves pairing would be a tremendous boost for Italy, who beat Lebanon, Russia and Serbia to qualify for their first World Cup, and Wales winger Rhys Williams says he has no complaints over their use of the grandparental qualification rule.

"It will be great for the tournament," said Williams, Wales' record tryscorer who is sitting out the current autumn international series due to a knee injury.

"The more big players you can get, the more it's going to stand out. It's great for Italy and it will be good for the game. If they're not breaking any rules, then good on them."

Meanwhile, two former Super League coaches of the year are expected to be in charge of teams next year.

Matt Elliott, who guided Bradford to the Super League title in 1997, remains committed to the United States despite his recent appointment as head coach of New Zealand Warriors, according to Tomahawks captain Apple Pope.

"Matty is just as keen as ever to lead us into the World Cup," said Pope, who addressed the news conference live from Florida.

The United States, who have also qualified for the first time, will be in the same group D as Italy and Wales.

St Helens' Samoan forward Tony Puletua confirmed that Daniel Anderson, who was Super League coach of the year in 2006 and 2007 while in charge of Saints, will be coaching the Pacific Islanders, who are in group B alongside holders New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and France.

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