Rugby League and Rugby Union, Rugby a XIII and XV, for instance, are increasingly working together, not against each other… even in Italy. This weekend the Italian XV seasons close, in which will see the final contented between Calvisano and Rovigo to be crowned Italian Champions, then they will focus on the test matches in the Pacific, while the Italian Rugby League (FIRFL) national movement then begins.
The Rugby Union protagonists are also often the protagonists of Rugby League. Luigi Ferraro, Calvisano’s hooker is perhaps the most tangible demonstration. The former Italian national A captain and Celtic League (European RU) player, lasthe weekend won the Italian RU Championship then, from this weekend, will do the same with the Magnifici Firenze, diving into the regional qualifying rounds of Rugby League for all of the month in the hope of bringing the Tuscan team to the Semi-Finals in July. Another protagonist of Italian Rugby Union that is set to debut in Italian Rugby league Championship (FIRFL) is the South African (Italian eligible and Italia A RU representative) Durandt Gerber, a fullback with Lazio Rugby that will participate with Italian Champions’ Gladiators Roma Rugby XIII, who has previous rugby league experience captaining the Barbarian Warriors RL in 2013 against the Azzurri (FIRFL).
Next you will find, once again, Pierluigi Gentile (born in 1979), who has spent time in Scotland, Catania, L’Aquila, Padova and Rome, now an authentic leader of our Italian Rugby League movement. But, even in the recent past there have been many capable RU players that have applied their trade in our Rugby League season. Last year, for instance Matteo Russotto and Luca Bigi of Albinea Rugby League (with Reggio Emilia in RU), participated in Rugby League, as has player-coach ex-Samoan RU star Silao Laega who has contested 3 RWC’s and still possesses the technical character to guide Albinea.
Russotto stated via a local newspaper: “the majority of the team will remain the same, with many athletes of our territory that have played with (top union club) Rugby Reggio and Lupi di Canolo. In addition, Tomaso Bergonzini of Devils and some players from Viadana (another top Italian pro RU club). The first named is a prop or forward, while Federico Mancini is a backrower, while many other Viadana players have said they would be happy to participate in this adventure of Rex Albinea, but still must assess their commitments (if selected) with the Italian National Rugby 7’s team.”
But, as fans of rugby league, and in particular Sicilian supporters with Spartans Catania, will also remember Australian-Italian Johnny Grasso from earlier seasons, as well as the younger Suaria and Duca, fierce contenders last season and this year, the last two starring with a top Italian RU club, Fiamme Oro Roma.
In short, Union and League are increasingly becoming more ‘friendly’ and realise there are mutual benefits. The intensity and impacts of rugby league can be an excellent physical trainer for rugby players, as well as provide more original tactical solutions. The Italian League Championship, along with the Italian Cup already held, represents an opportunity to stay fit, but also to grow, above all, the possibility to become protagonists in a young rugby league movement and although still needs to express a lot more, with emphasis placed on the international window, where Italy is slowly looking for a position.
In addition to the Championship battles, Serge Betsen, one of the strongest and most famous rugby players of the last twenty years will come to Rome and hold a coaching internship (20 and 21 June) on high-level defense systems and synergies between rugby XIII and rugby union, which is used in the important championships in Europe, England and France. Italy does not want to fall behind and, in our effort, now rugby is played all year round.