Italy duo hope European Championship is just the start for more internationals

Drew Darbyshire
Jake Maizen Italy PA European Championship

Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire/PA Images

Italy stars Ryan King and Jake Maizen hope the European Championship is just the start of having more international fixtures on a regular basis.

The draws were made for this autumn’s European A Championship and the first-ever European women’s World Cup 2025 qualifiers.

In the men’s draw, England, Scotland, Ireland and Serbia will meet in Group A. Italy will face Wales, Spain and France in Group B. The winners of each group will meet in the final on the weekend of November 11, with France the likely destination.

The two highest nations in each group outside of England and France, who have already qualified for the 2025 World Cup, will join them with the other nations going into the 2024 qualifying competition.

Italy duo King and Maizen, who both play for Halifax in the Championship, expressed their delight at seeing more international rugby league being introduced in to the calendar.

“Everyone wants to play more international matches,” King told Love Rugby League.

“Pulling on the Italian top for me is huge”

“I have been playing since 2019 so I’ve been lucky enough to be involved for quite a while. Playing for Italy is probably the main thing I want to do every year.

“They want to bring on a domestic comp and a women’s comp, so we just need to be playing more.”

Maizen added: “The more you can get these teams playing, the better it is for rugby league.

“In Italy, we are still trying to build our domestic comp so if we can get play more games, then we can get more exposure which can lead to bigger and better things. I think it is hugely important for the game for all of these countries involved.”

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The pride of representing Italy at a World Cup

Ryan King Italy PA World Cup European Championship
Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire/PA Images

King and Maizen were born and raised in Australia but qualify to play for Italy through family descent. Their heritage means everything to them and playing for Italy is at the top of their sporting achievements.

King said: “My mum’s Italian. My mum, nonna (grandmother) and nonno (grandfather) were born in Italy. For me it’s pretty big, I grew up with my Italian heritage very close to me. They still don’t speak much English so pulling on this blue jersey is big for me. I love it every time.”

Maizen said: “My dad’s side of the family are Italian. My nonna and nonno were born in Italy. They moved to Australia during the war. My dad was born in Australia but he spoke Italian before he spoke English. I was raised very much through my Italian side.”

The Halifax duo both played in their first World Cup last autumn, helping a youthful Italian side ease past Scotland in the group stages.

King and Maizen were blown away by their World Cup experience, and are hungry for more international honours.

King said: “It was amazing. It was probably a dream come true. I met some blokes that are mates for life now.”

Maizen added: “It was an unreal experience. It’s something you dream about.

“Looking back on it now it went really quick, it was amazing”

“My dad made the trip over to watch me. He was proud as punch. Nonna doesn’t really watch many games of footy, she thinks its too rough! But she tuned into those ones of playing for Italy which probably shows how proud she was to be representing our family. It’s huge representing your family and where you are from.”

In the women’s qualifiers, Italy will meet Malta, Serbia and Ireland in Group B. In Group A, Wales will take on Greece, Turkey and the Netherlands.

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