World Cup Preview: Wales v Italy

Italy‘s shock win over England last weekend has made them slight favourites for their World Cup opener against Wales in Cardiff.

It’s a landmark occasion for the Welsh side, playing on home soil, with the chance to get the union-mad nation behind them for a World Cup that also takes in games at Wrexham and Neath, the homes of the two professional Welsh clubs.

They are boosted by the news that their NRL player, Tyson Frizell, has overcome injury, and Australian-based stand-off Matt Seamark is likely to be pivotal.

Jordan James will earn his 28th cap, if selected, moving him two shy of Ian Watson‘s international record.

A total of 13 Super League players have been named in the Welsh squad for their fourth appearance at a Rugby League World Cup.

They missed out in 2008, and since then Wales has gained and lost a full-time Super League franchise in the shape of Crusaders.

Back in 2000, they gave Australia a scare in the semi-finals, eventually going down 46-22 at Huddersfield, while they also made the semi-finals in 1995, losing 25-10 to England.

Italy coach Carlo Napolitano, speaking after the 15-14 win over England, recalled their victory over Wales back in 2010 as a turning point for the Azurri.

That game, held at the Racecourse Ground, was won 13-6 by the Italians, and one of the try scorers that day, Ben Falcone, is set to start at stand-off on Saturday.

Exciting Newcastle wing Josh Mantellato, the drop goal hero last week, also played in that game three years ago.

Both sides have improved considerably since that game, with the Italians in particular adding NRL experience to their side.

St Helens prop Anthony Laffranchi, who played for Australia at the last World Cup, is joined by 10 NRL players.

Hooker Raymond Nasso, of French club Avignon, was superb in the friendly victory over England, and he has a place on the bench.

Wales‘ only warm-up game came in the shape of a comfortable 62-12 victory over a Welsh Select side.

Starting hooker Dean Parata also impressed last week, and dummy half could be where the game is won or lost.

Verdict: Italy‘s shock win over England has made the World Cup sit up and take notice of them, and they could cause upset for Wales on home soil. Italy by 4.

Wales: Neil Budworth (Moranbah), Ross Divorty (York), Gil Dudson (Wigan), Jacob Emmitt (Salford), Ben Evans (Bradford), Rhys Evans (Warrington), Ben Flower (Wigan), Tyson Frizell (St George), Jordan James (Salford), Elliot Kear (Bradford), Craig Kopczak (Huddersfield), Rhodri Lloyd (Wigan), Peter Lupton (Workington), Larne Patrick (Huddersfield), Matt Seamark (Wynnum Manly), Anthony Walker (St Helens), Ian Webster (Central Queensland), Lloyd White (Widnes), Rhys Williams (Warrington).

Italy: Anthony Minichiello (Sydney), Joshua Mantellato (Newcastle), James Tedesco (Wests), Aiden Guerra (Sydney), Chris Centrone (North Sydney), Ben Falcone (Souths Logan), Ryan Ghietti (Northern Pride), Anthony Laffranchi (St Helens), Dean Parata (Parramatta), Paul Vaughan (Canberra), Mark Minichiello (Gold Coast), Cameron Ciraldo (Penrith), Joel Riethmuller (North Queensland). Interchanges (from): Sam Gardel (Souths Logan), Ryan Tramonte (Windsor), Brendan Santi (Wests), Raymond Nasso (Avignon), Tim Maccan (Tweed Heads), Gavin Hiscox (Central Queensland)

World Cup Fixtures: WalesUSA (Wrexham, Nov 3), Cook Islands (Neath, Nov 10); ItalyScotland (Workington, Nov 3), Tonga (Halifax, Nov 10).

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