“Our goal is the World Cup,” claimed Tiziano Francini, Vice President of the FIRL, speaking from the Veneto as his side prepare for their upcoming RLWC2017 European Qualifiers, Pool A games with Wales and Serbia.
“We would love to make our second successive World Cup,” he emphasised, “and we are confident going into the qualifiers.”
But he is also clear as to which way the sport needs to progress in the country, if it is to be sustainable. “We have worked hard since 2013 to move the sport forward here,” he said, “by putting in a stronger domestic structure, but we are well aware that there is a lot more work to do.
“The path we have taken is the right one, especially with the increase in junior rugby. This season, for example, it was great to see the first-ever Grand Final between teams from the north and south meet in Rome, when XIII del Ducato defeated Spartans Catania 38-14 in the Villa Pamphili stadium.
“It was also great to have our Mediterranean Cup game staged in Sicily. But for now the focus is on the Qualifiers. The impact from the World Cup last time gave us a big boost, and now we head to the beautiful city of Monza for the challenge against Wales, and to run a rugby league festival there that will put us to the test both on and off the field.
“These last four years, and now the Qualifiers, represent an important moment of transition that could lead to the game in Italy itself making a quantum leap.”