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First Wales Italy RL match in 60 years this Sunday

29th September 2010, 09:10

First Wales Italy RL match in 60 years this Sunday

Thanks to Phil Fearnley for a lot of the info and for providing images

Wales and Italy will make history on Sunday in Wrexham when they face each other for the first time in a full Rugby League international (kick-off 2pm).

This is followed up on Wednesday 6th October at Parc Eirias in Colwyn Bay when the two sides meet at under 23 level (kick-off 7pm).

However it's not the first time that Italian Rugby League sides have visited our shores.

The full international side were here 12 months ago when they took on and beat Serbia 42-12 in the European Cup fifth-sixth play-off match in Maesteg in South Wales.

And ten years ago, the Italians played in the 2000 Emerging Nations World Cup in England, where they beat Canada 66-6 in Keighley and USA 40-16 in Halifax, before falling to the Great Britain Amateur side 20-14 in Dewsbury.

But it has been a full 60-year gap since an Italian and Welsh side last faced each other, seemingly at any level.

Back in the 1950s and 60s, Italian Rugby League sides were frequent and welcome visitors to the United Kingdom.

Club outfits like Padua, Treviso, Venice and Turin became well-known to fans in the UK, and Italian players signed pro contracts with English clubs, often under pseudonyms, as in the years when rugby union was a so-called amateur sport there would be no way back to rugby union in their home country should they wish to return.

For example, Padua's "Tony Rossi" signed for Wigan and "Ferdi Corsi" for Rochdale when in reality they were Antonio Danielli and Fredy Saterato.

Jean Gallia's efforts in the mid-1930s to persuade his fellow countrymen in France to adopt rugby league soon attracted the attention of a trainee commercial lawyer and rugby player in Turin, Vincenzo Bertolotto. But an exhibition game suggested for Rome didn't materialise.

But after the Second World War, discontent with the policies of the Italian rugby union in refusing to strengthen their game to put it on a level with France, led to thoughts of alternatives and the Italian Rugby League was launched in 1950 after several years of talks between then RFL secretary, Bill Fallowfield, and a group of Italian rugby dissidents.

The first game in Italy, an exhibition match in Turin by two French sides, was attending by over 4,000 fans. A local resident, Dennis Chappell, once of Wakefield helped to foster the "rebels", among them one Vincenzo Bertolotto, then an elder statesman of Italian rugby at 38 years old.

Together, they organised a six-game tour to England and Wales which included a game against a "South Wales 13" at the Brewery Field in Bridgend, future home of Celtic Crusaders. Around 2,500 attended to see South Wales win comfortably 29-11 with Ystradgynlais' Les Lewis notching a hat-trick of tries.

The Italians went on to lose all of their matches but on returning home, a Turin-based side joined the French league.

Further tours were made in 1954 and 1960 but despite heavy financial investment from the RFL, the Italian Rugby League struggled. They entertained Australian tourists in 1960, losing 15-37 in Padua and 22-67 in Treviso but by 1962 the game had died out due to pressure on players from the Italian Rugby Union.

Mini-revivals took place in the late 1960s and in the 1980s, but it has taken a decade of hard work to get to the position that they are in this year, where a new six-team Italian league, with teams in Padua, Florence and Rome, has been played.

Players from that league are included in this current squad and this weekend they return to Wales for the first time in 60 years.

Tickets for Wales v Italy at The Racecourse Ground in Wrexham on Sunday 3rd October priced from £10 for adults and £5 concessions at can be bought by going to www.walesrugbyleague.co.uk, by calling the Crusaders' ticket office on 0871 221 5911 or by calling into the club shop at The Racecourse.

Tickets for the under 23 match at Eirias Park, Colwyn Bay can be bought on the day of the game, priced £5 for adults, £3 for concession and £1 for juniors.

ITALY TOUR SQUAD: Chris Nero (Bradford Bulls); Andrew Kaleopa (Cabramatta); Paul Franze (Charlestown, NSW); Rocky Trimarchi (Crusaders); Fabio Barzieri, Alessandro Cuomo, Marco Ferrazzano, Giovanni Franchi, Daniele Pasqualini, Robert Quitadamo, Matteo Rossi, Marcelo Segundo (all XIII del Ducato); Jacopo Bastiani, Nicola Bressanin, Domenico Brunetta, Luca Gazzola, Edoardo Lerna , Matthew Sands, Andrea Sola, Ludovico Torregiani, Filippo Veronese, Daniele Wilson, Liam Zollo (all Grifons Padova); Giovanni Bonfiglio, Marzio Ferraro, Jason Dubas-Fisher, John Grasso, Mario Marcinzack, Marco Pozzebon, Manuel Soligo, Dean Vicelich (all Leoni Veneti); Flavio Grotti (Lezignan Sangliers); Rhys Lenarduzzi (Moss Vale Dragons); Chistophe Calegari (Palau); Dominic Nasso (Parramatta Eels); Ben Falcone (Wests Tigers); Raymond Nasso, Ben Stewart, Ryan Tramonte (all Windsor Wolves); Daniel Sansone (Northern Raiders).