The North Queensland Cowboys upset the NRL’s reigning premiers, the Sydney Roosters, in Round 17 last year.
One win, one draw and one loss was the outcome of Italy’s debut at the rugby league world cup four years ago.
The single loss came in their final pool game where a win would have seen them progress to the quarter-finals to certify a dream debut. The Azzurri arrive down under boasting some big-name NRL superstars who are certain to light up the 2017 RLWC.
Italy gained entry into the 2017 Rugby League World Cup after two rounds of European qualifying and a repechage match that spanned over two years. The play-off match took place in November 2016 when they dismantled a Russian side to secure the last place on offer for the European nations.
The Italians’ most memorable victories in rugby league were recorded during the 2013 world cup. They won on opening night against hosts Wales at Millennium Stadium, which was a statement that they were not in the UK to make up the numbers. Their most famous victory, however, came a fortnight earlier when they defeated England 15-14 in a warm-up match, which was certainly the catalyst to highlight the Italians competitiveness in the upcoming tournament.
Since the last World Cup they’ve had some mixed results, but Cameron Ciraldo, who featured as a player in 2013, will be hoping to take Italy to the next level as head coach.
Likely team line-up
1. James Tedesco
2. Mason Cerruto
3. Justin Castellaro
4. Nathan Milone
5. Josh Mantellato
6. Terry Campese
7. Jack Johns
8. Paul Vaughan
9. Ryan Ghietti
10. Daniel Alvaro
11. Joel Riethmuller
12. Mark Minichello
13. Nathan Brown
14. Colin Wilkie
15. Brandon Santi
16. Shannon Wakeman
17. Jayden Walker
Squad Members: Mirco Bergamasco, Christopher Calegari, Gieole Cellurino, Chris Centrone, Gavin Hiscox, Richard Lepori, Joseph Tramontana.
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Mark Minichello will be following in the footsteps of his Brother Anthony as he takes on the role of captain for his country. He is joined by a number of NRL stars in providing the Azzurri with a very strong forward pack that includes Paul Vaughan, Joel Riethmuller, Daniel Alvaro and Parramatta Eels player of the year Nathan Brown.
The pack is complemented by a formidable spine that includes Northern Pride hooker Ryan Ghietti, veteran Terry Campese and Jack Johns, son of Matty Johns, finished off with one of the world’s most dynamic players slotting at fullback in James Tedesco. It’s a 17 that will ensure Italy is competitive in 2017.
It’s hard to go past James Tedesco when it comes to the key player. He has been one of the NRL’s premier fullbacks, which has gained him a very large deal with the Sydney Roosters, who have enticed him away from the Wests Tigers. He has the ability to turn games with his elusive running style. On the back of strong go forward watch out for Teddy’s blistering speed as he will hunt line breaks by shadowing the likes of Brown and Vaughan for offloads.
Fixtures and opponents
Ireland at Barlow Park, Cairns – Sunday, 29 October, at 3pm AEDT
United States at Townsville Stadium, Townsville – Sunday, 5 November, at 5pm AEDT
Fiji at Canberra Stadium, Canberra – Friday, 10 November, at 7:40pm AEDT
The big game for Italy will come down to their very first international against the Fiji Bati. Fiji have been semi-finalists in the last two world cups, and for Italy to progress in this tournament they need to be able to defeat the Bati. It will also be an indicator to see how far Italy has progressed and where they currently sit in the pecking order of international rugby league.
RLWC 2017 prospects
Italy are in a tough pool and there won’t be any easy matches, having drawn Ireland, USA and Fiji in the preliminary fixtures. They have the squad to compete at this World Cup, and a quarter-final appearance is not beyond reach. If they can pick up two wins, they will give themselves every chance to progress. On paper the Azzurri certainly wouldn’t look completely out of place during the knockout stage, and with the individual talent on board they are certain to display some scintillating football this world cup.
That’s the last of my previews for the 2017 Rugby league World Cup. I hope you Roarers enjoyed reading them all. Wishing all the participating nations their best, now it’s time for the show to begin!