Italian rugby league club, Saluzzo Roosters, have completed their debut season in the French competition by beating St Martin XIII 26-16 in the final match of their campaign, triggering euphoric scenes in the Centro Sportivo di Manta.
The side originally played in the Italian domestic competition as the North West Roosters, joining formally in 2013.
FIRL and the club began negotiations with FFRXIII in August last year and in November, they lost their first match 50-10 against Caumont. Over time, however they have noticeably improved, despite some heavy defeats.
Saluzzo, in north west Italy, is only 40km from the French border and the Roosters played the season in the French Federation’s Provence Alpes-Côte d’Azur championship. Elio Giacoma, coach of the Roosters, was ecstatic after leading his side on this unprecedented journey, labelling it, “a wonderful adventure.”
“I am so proud of my boys,” said Giacoma, “ending this special season with an unexpected victory. We took so many risks with this decision. We were aware of all the difficulties we would face, starting a new life in rugby league and we have invested lot of time to get the adventure started. But we have had great returns, not just with this final weekend victory but because the whole region has answered our call and supported us.
“We started the project with humility knowing the hard work we would have to do,” he went on. “Our goal was fist to create a stable club in the rugby league world, and then to grow. Having new players on board, such Gioele Celerino and Mirco Bergamasco (both Italian internationals), can only help our development. We saw lot of interest in us, not just from the media, but from sponsors, the public administration, the fans – it shows that we are on the right path.
“We would like thank both federations, the French and the Federazione Italiana Rugby League for this big opportunity, and for all the support they gave us during this season.”
FIRL vice president Tiziano Franchini, who played in France with Chatillon and then Corbeille, offered his congratulations for Saluzzo’s first season in new waters.
“It is a great moment for the Italian rugby league movement,” said Francini. “We are very proud of what the Roosters have achieved and we thank everyone involved in the project, especially Elio Giacoma who is the soul of the Saluzzo club.
“Our aim as a federation is to have at least 20 people like him get involved, and continue to expand domestic rugby league in Italy.”