Wales coach Iestyn Harris has advised the Welsh public to remain positive and look deeper than the scoreline after his young side lost 6-13 at home to a cosmopolitan and enthusiastic Italy outfit in Wrexham.
Former Wales rugby union captain Gareth Thomas scored a try on his debut to give his side the lead but the Italians fought back to win through tries from the equally as experienced Chris Caligari and Ben Falcone to seal the win against a Welsh outfit that contained 13 debutants.
Harris commented that he was pleased with his young side’s performance considering five of his players had never even played first team Rugby League for their clubs.
“I was really really pleased today,” he said. “We had a lot of academy players in the side and for the last 30 to 40 minutes, we had 9 or 10 kids under the age of 19 playing.
“I think it’s really pleasing for the game of rugby league in Wales. The Italians had an experienced side with a lot of Australians who play at a good level and were more experienced than our kids. I thought our lads handled themselves with distinction and should be proud of what they’ve done. We would have liked to have won the game but I’m not too disappointed.
“However we were disappointed to have Sunday’s match postponed. It would have been nice for our squad to have had a hit out then but with the game being today, we couldn’t risk a lot of our first choice players. We had all the young kids coming in too looking for the experience so I thought it was only right to give them a shot.
“It just shows how far the game has come in Wales. We’ve never been able to field youngsters like this before as we haven’t had a proper academy system in the past. It is a credit to Wales Rugby League that we have this now and have so many youngsters coming through the system. The future looks bright for us and come the 2013 World Cup, these youngsters will be after regular first team spots.
“We can take some real positives into Sunday’s game against Scotland. Gareth Thomas was great for the half hour that he played, Ben Flower was good too after coming back from injury and Gil Dudson looked good too. We’re all looking forward to Sunday now.”