The Azzurri, fresh from a comprehensive 62-14 win in Serbia, have picked the same 19 to meet Wales at the Stadio Brianteo in Monza tomorrow (Saturday), to decide the Pool A automatic qualifiers for the 2017 World Cup.
With the squad having come through a virus that ran through the camp this week, Terry Campese will again lead the Italian charge in this important match, with the winners to play in Group C alongside co-hosts, Papua New Guinea next year, and the losers headed for the final qualifying play-off, in Leigh next Friday (4 November).
For this first-ever Rugby League match in the sports-mad city of Monza, kick off time has been moved to 4pm CET to accommodate a Festival of Rugby League, in which a curtain-raiser will also see Italy ‘A’ face Belgium.
“We are very excited to be playing at home in Monza and we’re hoping for a good crowd to support us,” commented head coach, Cameron Ciraldo. “Wales are deservedly favourites. They have a strong squad with a number of very talented players who are in good form, but we have come together very well and I’m confident we can challenge. I believe a lot in this group.”
The Welsh have been forced into making three changes after Ollie Olds (who suffered a broken hand in their home win over Serbia), Jake Emmitt (who picked up a hamstring injury in training), and Ian Newbury (who damaged a leg in their draw with Jamaica last Friday) were ruled out. In addition, Lewis Reece, Regan Grace and Christiaan Roets are all unable to travel, so young St Helens backrower Ben Morris, Leigh prop Sam Hopkins, and the Hunslet playmaker Danny Ansell are included.
“Italy are very experienced. They have a lot of talented heritage players in their squad,” said Wales coach John Kear. “In their good win against Serbia last weekend they looked dangerous so we know this one is going to be a big challenge.
“Our disappointing draw with Jamaica acted as a wake-up call though, and we’ve had a good week in training sine, so we’ll be looking to go out there and put in a good performance. Hopefully one that’ll be enough to get us through to next year’s World Cup.”
The match will be live streamed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3d8XnEjJng
ITALY 19-MAN SQUAD
Dean Parata (Blacktown), Patrik Ziliotti (Brianza Tigers), Joel Reithmuller (Cairns Brothers), Jayden Walker (Cronulla Sharks), Terry Campese, (Hull KR), Christophe Calegari (Lezignan Corbieres), Guiseppe Pagani (Lions Brescia), Gavin Hiscox (Mackay Cutters), Gioele Celerino (Newcastle Thunder), Kieran Quabba (North Queensland Cowboys), Ryan Ghietti, Col Wilkie, Justin Castellaro (Northern Pride), Richard Lepori (Oldham Roughyeds), Mason Cerruto (Parramatta Eels), Shannon Wakeman (St George-Illawarra), Brenden Santi (Townsville Blackhawks), Chris Centrone (Wyong Roos), Mirco Bergamasco (unattached)
WALES 19-MAN SQUAD
Danny Ansell (Hunslet Hawks), Sam Hopkins (Leigh Centurions), Elliot Kear, Rhys Williams (London Broncos), Andrew Gay (Mackay Cutters), Joe Burke (Oldham), Phil Joseph (vice captain) Craig Kopczak (captain) (Salford Red Devils), Matty Fozard (Sheffield Eagles), Courtney Davies, Dai Evans, Connor Farrer (South Wales Ironmen), Ben Morris (St Helens), Rhodri Lloyd (Swinton Lions), Morgan Evans, Steve Parry (University of Gloucestershire All Golds), Anthony Walker (Wakefield Wildcats) and Gil Dudson, Lloyd White (Widnes Vikings)