The return of the Mediterranean Cup rather than the result is of most significance, according to FIRL president Orazio D’arro. Lebanon held on to the trophy they won when last played for in 2004, beating Italy 26-22 in an exciting match played in Catania, Sicily.
Both nations fielded teams of domestic-quota players, mostly debutants, in a match that formed part of the Federazione Italiana Rugby League’s strategy to develop its southernmost outpost. “The revival of the Mediterranean cup is a tribute to the tenacity of the Italian and Lebanese Rugby League federations who have been working together to achieve this for the past two years,” said D’arro.
“It was disappointing to lose but yet even more positive for me to see the investment into the south of Italy paying off. All of the players of the Italian championship truly deserve the opportunity to play for their country and family and it was great to see Sicily represented so strongly.
“The FIRL board has seen and recognized that for the sport to grow to its true potential, opportunities must be given to those at the grassroots level,” he continued. “The challenge to go south and bring opportunity to Sicily was a simple decision as it provided our newest members the chance to wear the Azzurri jersey and sing the national anthem.”
D’arro is now looking forward to making the contest a more regular fixture on the international calendar.
“We all want to expand the Mediterranean Cup format to include other nations in the region and give real opportunity to domestic players,” he said. “The result of this game has been shared time and again on social media and such positive comments have led our board to invest in future events and commence strong discussions with the Lebanese federation to deliver the first ladies international game between us.
“We are also building to the inaugural festival of rugby league in Monza in October and November which will see teams from Belgium and Serbia participate in games before the World Cup European Qualifier against Wales.”