Italy boosted by Australian stars

PA Sport
Anthony Minichiello won 19 caps for the Kangaroos

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Anthony Minichiello won 19 caps for the Kangaroos

Wales are set to face an Italy team packed with seasoned Australian internationals when they launch the World Cup at the Millennium Stadium in exactly 12 months' time.

Sydney Roosters full-back Anthony Minichiello, 32, who played for the Azzuri in 1999 before winning the first of his 19 caps for the Kangaroos, will lead Italy's first World Cup campaign after reverting to the country of his ancestry.

Italy could have as many as four other ex-Australian internationals in their ranks. Carlo Napolitano, a former Salford forward who is a member of Italy's coaching staff, has also secured the services of London Broncos' former Australian scrum-half Craig Gower and St Helens forward Anthony Laffranchi and hopes to snare two other big names in Terry Campese and Shaun Berrigan.

Minichiello confirmed his country's bold ambitions at a press conference at MediaCityUK in Salford to mark the countdown to the 2013 World Cup.

Speaking to journalists online, Minichiello said: "This is a major opportunity for Italy Rugby League. They've got a competition up and running in Italy and we're really excited about taking part in the first game of the World Cup.

"I think we've got a lot of top guys on board, people like Anthony Laffranchi and Craig Gower are really committed. Terry Campese is a big target for us and Shaun Berrigan is qualified so we're trying to get him on board as well."

A delegation will head to Queanbeyan in the next few weeks to sound out Campese, nephew of former Wallabies wing David Campese, who made his debut for Australia in the 2008 World Cup but has played little football over the past two seasons because of injury.

A Gower-Campese half-back pairing would be a tremendous boost for Italy, who beat Lebanon, Russia and Serbia to qualify for their first World Cup, and Wales winger Rhys Williams says he has no complaints over their use of the grandparental qualification rule.

"It will be great for the tournament," said Williams, Wales' record tryscorer who is sitting out the current autumn international series due to a knee injury.

"The more big players you can get, the more it's going to stand out. It's great for Italy and it will be good for the game. If they're not breaking any rules, then good on them."

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