England to play Italy in historic first international
History will be made on Saturday October 19 when England and Italy play each other for the first time in a Rugby League international in a friendly fixture at Salford.
The match will take place just seven days before England kick-off Rugby League World Cup 2013 against Australia in the opening fixture of the 14-nation tournament at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, where Italy face Wales on the same day in an eagerly-anticipated double-header.
Italy are scheduled to fly in to England three days before the friendly which will provide both nations with a perfect opportunity to hone their preparations for the biggest sporting tournament the UK has hosted since the London Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.
The RFL has agreed terms with Salford City Reds to host the historic fixture at Salford City Stadium and details of ticket availability will be announced shortly.
England coach Steve McNamara said: “I am really excited by this opportunity, the match against Italy represents the final piece in the jigsaw for England and will allow us to put the finishing touches to our extensive preparations for Rugby League World Cup 2013.
“We will go into the match on the back of an intensive warm-weather training camp in South Africa and the run out will be just what many of the players need.
“It’s important that we hit the ground running come the World Cup and this game gives us the best chance to do just that.
“Rugby League in Italy has made great strides in the last few years and I know they have strong ambitions themselves for the World Cup. It promises to be a memorable game for everyone.”
Italy are coached by former Salford City Reds player Carlo Napolitano whose selection options were boosted last week when an Italian team comprised entirely of players from their domestic competition defeat Russia 38-18 in Este.
Salford-born Napolitano said: “Playing England is the perfect preparation for Italy’s debut entry into the Rugby League World Cup.
"The experience of playing one of the game's top nations eight days before the World Cup kick off will be invaluable for the Azzurri.
“It will provide me with a realistic gauge on how we are looking leading into our opening Cup clash with Wales in Cardiff.
“Both Stave McNamara and I are good friends and we have been discussing such a game for a number of years. It is wonderful to have the game in my home town of Salford.
“I hope the local Salford community support Italy as their second team and I would encourage all Italians in England to wear the Azzurri and attend the game.”
The match will be played with unlimited interchange, allowing both nations to select every member of the RLWC2013 squads.