Date: 29/9/16

“Our goal is the World Cup,” claims vice president of the Federation of Italian Rugby League Tiziano Franchini, as his side prepare for 2017 Rugby League World Cup European Qualifiers Pool A games with Wales and Serbia.

But he is also clear which way the sport needs to progress in the country if it is to be sustainable.

“We would love to make our second successive World Cup and are confident going into the qualifiers but we have also worked hard since 2013 to move the sport forward and put in a stronger domestic structure.”

Speaking from the Veneto, Franchini continued: “We are well aware that there is a lot more work to do but the path we have taken is the right one, especially with the increase in junior rugby.

“This season, for example, it was great to see the first-ever Grand Final between teams from the north and south meeting in Rome, when XIII del Ducato defeated Spartans Catania 38-14 in the Villa Pamphili stadium, and for our Mediterranean Cup game to be staged in Sicily.

“But for now the focus is on the qualifiers. The impact from the World Cup last time gave us a big boost. Now we head to the beautiful city of Monza for the challenge against Wales and to run a rugby league festival there which will put us to the test on and off the field.

“These last four years and now the qualifiers represent an important moment of transition that could lead to FIRL making a quantum leap.”