- Team Name: The Azzurri
- First Appearance: 2013
- RLWC2013 Group: Group C
- RLWC2013 Opponents: Scotland, Tonga, Wales
- Last Win: N/A
Ones to Watch: Anthony Laffranchi, Craig Gower and Anthony Minichiello
Read more about these great players and why they are ones to watch during RLWC2013.
Australian born, the 32 year old Second Row Forward is of dual nationality and looks to represent his Italian heritage for Rugby League World Cup 2013. Nicknamed ‘Boof’ the solid forward has bags of international experience having represented Australia in the recent 2008 Rugby League World Cup and during the state of Origin matches too. LaFFranchi signed a 2 year deal with St Helens which started in 2012.
Bronco boy Gower of Rugby Union decent also looks to represent his Italian heritage during RLWC2013. Like LaFFranchi, Gower is Australian born but is eligible to play for The Azzuris as he has an Italian Grandfather.
The halfback made a switch from Union to League just recently and has a two year deal with Super League’s London Broncos.
Famous for his loyalty at the Sydney Roosters, Minichiello has been very much a key player since his debut in 2000. Nicknamed ‘the Italian,’ Minichiello is looking forward to honouring his Italian heritage by representing them in RLWC2013.
He is one of the most celebrated full backs in the sport and has a successful career that has spanned three decades. As captain of the Roosters this year, Mini will be a force to be reckoned with as he will ultimately help steer his Italian side towards victory in RLWC2013.
A Bit of History
Teams from England, France and Australia toured Italy during the 1950s and 1960s, but it was 1995 before Rugby League re-appeared on the country’s sporting landscape when Australians with Italian heritage formed the Italia Rugby league with the goal of assisting with the game’s revival.
Italy's resurgence came with the qualifying matches for the 2000 Rugby League World Cup and the Emerging Nations event which ran alongside. The Italians preformed well in the latter, winning pool games against the United States and Canada before losing 20-14 to Britain’s talented amateurs.
Following occasional games in Sydney, Italy took part in the 2009 European Nations Shield against Germany and the Czech Republic. Fielding players mainly drawn form the local Italian clubs, Italy defeated Germany 58-26 and the Czech Republic 38-18 to lift the trophy.
Italy secured the remaining RLWC2013 spot in group C alongside Scotland and Tonga thanks to a 78th-minute drop goal against Lebanon.
Domestically, the Federazione Italiana Rugby League (FIRL) was formed in 2008 to further develop the game in Italy. A year later, the inaugural Italian domestic competition was won by Monster XIII.
The Italian Rugby League Championship now involves eight clubs competing for the title of Champions of Italy, currently held by the Duchy XIII of Piacenza.
The current FIRL international squad is made up of players based in Italy, Australia, England and France under Head Coach and ex-Salford Reds player Carlo Napolitano.
The team will be captained by NRL veteran Anthony Minichiello of Sydney Roosters, a former international Rugby League ‘Golden Boot’ winner as ‘Best Player in the World’.