Italy coach Leo Epifania hopes there’ll be a boost in the domestic competition on the back of the World Cup so the next Gioele Celerino can break through.
Celerino became first born and bred Italian to feature in a Rugby League World Cup game this autumn. He played his first World Cup match against Scotland before going on to face champions Australia.
The 29-year-old began his career with Saluzzo Roosters before going on to have spells with Newcastle Thunder and West Wales Raiders.
With the Italian domestic competition paused because of the pandemic, Celerino made the move to the south of France. He played for Palau Broncos and most recently Saint-Gaudens Bears.
The Asti-born forward has been part of Italy’s squad for the last three World Cups, and made history at the most recent tournament by becoming the first domestic player to feature in a World Cup match.
Gioele Celerino: An Italian success story
Italy boss Epifania is hoping for a boost on the domestic scene so we can enjoy more success stories like Celerino.
“We probably need to move forward faster with that but there’s been a couple of years of Covid that has done a lot of damage,” Epifania admitted.
“The game in Italy, we’ve sat down and spoken about some planning after the World Cup to try to make the game happen and something domestically. I know some things are coming up domestic-wise hopefully over the next month or so and hopefully some international games.
“We’d like it to grow, we need it to grow. As the years go on, the heritage of the people in Australia is obviously going to reduce.
“We need to get our players from somewhere. Ultimately the goal for us, we are not just about Australian-Italian players representing Italy, we want the Gioele’s and more of them to come from Italy.
“I hope we can move forward, especially on the back end of Covid. Maybe we can do our best to support Italy to try to make that happen.”
Celerino has won 20 caps for Italy since making his international debut back in 2013.
Maybe by getting the domestic competition back up and running following the pandemic, we can see more Italy-born players at the next World Cup in 2025.
The Azzurri enjoyed a good World Cup campaign in 2021. They comfortably beat Scotland before going down to Fiji and Australia.