A masterclass and 24-point haul from Terry Campese saw Italy claim the fourteenth, and final place in the 2017 World Cup, with a 14-0 try rout over depleted Russia at the Leigh Sports Village. In the full tournament the Azzurri now join Fiji and the USA in Group D, and will also play a cross-group tie with Ireland.
Campese, who has been in tremendous form over the three qualifying ties, is looking forward to the chance to play for his national side in Canberra, where he started his junior career, enjoyed success with the Raiders in the NRL, and in the run-up to the World Cup will join the ACT side Queanbeyan as a player/coach.
“It’s great to represent the heritage of the family,” said Campese. “If my grandfather hadn’t gone to Australia I wouldn’t have had this opportunity so it’s sad that he didn’t get to see me pull on the Italian jersey. If I get to play in Canberra for the Azzurri that would be fantastic; the World Cup will be tough but we won’t be making up the numbers.”
Russia had only 16 men to call on, after injuries ruled out three of their squad from the week before against Ireland, and there was no time to obtain visas for replacements. Veteran Sergei Konstantinov was ill on the plane over but bravely took his place on the bench while stand-in full back, Maxim Suchkov was forced off with a hip injury early in the second half.
“It was tough on us because we don’t have a single professional player in our squad,” said Russia head coach, Denis Koralev. “I am proud of every single one of our players. They gave all they had tonight, and now we will go back and begin to prepare for the next World Cup by bringing in some of our younger players.”