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Italy

Italy Rugby League
Country Name: Italy
Local Name: Italia
Nicknames: Azzurri
Colours: Blue
Inaugurated: 1951
First WC Appearance: 2013
No. Of RLWC Titles: 0
Governing Body: Federazione Italiana Rugby League
Region: Europe

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Italy Rugby League

Rugby League in Italy is really started to move forward after a long lean spell since the glory days of the 50’s and 60’s. This has been helped by an improved International calendar which allows the Azzuri to play more regularly.

The Italian team is made up of a mixture of heritage and Italian nationals who play in the new domestic Italian league. Stars such as Craig Gower, Anthony Laffranchi and Anthony Miichiello have added the star power to a team that have lacked experience over the years.

In recent times and thanks to the exposure from the Italian test performing well at World Cups and the extra frequency of international matches, there has been a big move towards developing the domestic Italian Rugby League scene with a small domestic competition boosted by an Italian side playing in the French pyramid against a higher level of opponent.

Italian National Rugby League Team

Italy is a nation that took to the sport early on but as has been the situation with many countries, the sport was all but stamp out of existence due to off of the field issues from rival codes and from within but thankfully, the sport is now rebounding and the national team is becoming a powerhouse of the European game.

Colours and Kit

As you would expect from a national team representing the country of Italy, the colours of Italian Rugby League team is azure blue with the kit been predominately all that colour on the shirt, shorts, and socks. It is from their playing kit that the country get their nickname of the Azzuri, or simple ‘The Blues’ in English.

Honours

Although Italy have now started to establish themselves as a top country of European Rugby League and they are a country who have featured in many European Championships and even on the biggest stage of them all at the Rugby League World Cup, they have enjoyed little trophy and title success.

The country have played in a number of lesser tournaments and in emerging nations events and it has been at that level where they have enjoy some success with wins at both the 2008 and 2009 RLEF European Shield, something that saw them moved up to the European Cup level and thy also won the Ionio Cup by defeating Greece in 2009.

Arguably the biggest shock in International Rugby League since the turn of the Millennium and arguably the biggest success for the Italian national side came in 2013 when they took on and defeated the giants of England by 15-14 in a match that took place in England and was a warm up for the 2013 RLWC.

Notable Players

Unfortunately, the lack of a fully professional domestic scene has led to the country not been able to produce a major star of their won to date but they have had a number of star heritage players who have committed to playing for the country that they parent(s) or grandparent(s) was born in.

Amongst the household names of the NRL and the Super League to have put on the Azure blue of Italy are Daniel Alvaro, Nathan Brown, Terry Campese, Mason Cerruto, Cameron Ciraldo, Aidan Guerra, Anthony Laffranchi, Josh Mantellato, Anthony Minichiello, Mark Minichiello, Joel Riethmuller, Brenden Santi, Kade Snowden, James Tedesco, Paul Vaughan, Paul Franze, Shannon Donato, David Penna, Mark Corvo and Luke Davico.

History

The sport of Rugby League first featured in Italy in 1951 when a domestic competition was first established a year after a Turin based team toured the British Isles.

In that same year, the first representative side of Italy took to the field in a match against France when Italy lost 29-17 in Cahors.

In 1958, the Italian Federation of Amateur Rugby 13 (FIAR 13) was formed and after gaining recognition from the RFL, the countries domestic scene blossomed to 24 clubs and 620 registered players.

The forward momentum of the sport then transferred back to the test arena when Italy welcome the giants of Australia to Italy for a 2 match series and although both games were one by the Kangaroos, Italy performed admirably and things were starting to look strong but as was the case in so man European nations, as soon as the sport seemed to be gaining a foothold, the Italia Rugby Federation (Rugby Union governing body) used their resources and connections to all but get the sport banned and by the 1970s a national Italian club ceased to exist.

It took until the 1990’s when Italian-Australians Domenic Pezzano and John Benigni started the Italian Rugby League A XIII and got together a team to represent the country in the RL World Sevens.

This same set up sent teams to the World 9s, St Marys Sevens, the Wollongong Sevens and the Mediterranean Cup amongst others and they attempted the qualify for the 2000RLWC and played in the RL Emerging Nations Tournaments.

By 2002, the country were started to become fully established once more and even hosted a triangular series between themselves, Scotland, and Russia as well as a one off test match against Greece.

2006saw them play matches against South Africa and British Amateur Rugby League Association but they were still classed as an unranked country by the Rugby League European Federation but that soon changed as in 2008, the country become an Official Observer and that saw them not only feature in the world rankings but it allowed them entry into bigger tournaments including the RLEF European Shield, which they won in both 2008 and 2009 as well as the European Cup.

Their first victory in Britain against a British country came in 2010 when they took on and defeated Wales in Wrexham before that incredible victory over England in 2013.

Arguably, the biggest moment for Italy came in 2013, when all of the years of hard work paid off and the country made it to the Rugby League World Cup proper for the first time and they defeat Wales in Cardiff in front of over 50,000 fans.

Whilst the country do still rely too heavily on heritage players and that makes it difficult for them to develop consistency, there are plans to further develop home grown players and to hopefully see the domestic scene developed in Italy so that they can push on and become a consistent performer on the European scene and a top 10 ranked nation in the world rankings.

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