Italy to profit from rule relaxation

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The Independent Online

The likely Italian captain in this autumn's World Championship for Emerging Nations, Greg Florimo, says that Australia's decision to relax the qualification rules will make his ancestral country even stronger.

Florimo, a Kangaroo-tourist himself and now with Halifax after a season at Wigan, heard the news yesterday that Australia will allow players such as the Sydney City winger, Anthony Minichello, to play for their other country without prejudicing their future representative prospects in Australia.

He is also hopeful that Hull's Austro-Italian loose forward, Tony Grimaldi, will make himself available. "If we can get all these guys together, I think we will be pretty strong," said Florimo.

The draw yesterday put Italy into a group with America and Canada, with the British amateurs of Barla bracketed with Morocco and Japan - both of whom will field almost entirely home-based squads.

"I will use one player who is with South London and maybe three from France," said the director of the Moroccan Rugby League, and one-time Fulham, Hull and Warrington winger, Hussain M'Barki. "Otherwise we will stick with the players who have supported our competition in Morocco."

Group matches, slotted between the quarter and semi-finals of the main World Cup, will be in established rugby league towns, with the exception of Oxford, which will stage the America v Canada match. The final will be at Spotland, Rochdale, on 20 November.

The leading Australian players' agents, Wayne Beavis, has warned that the new qualifying limit for players coming to Britain next year will make them expensive to recruit.

"They must have played 16 of 26 first grade games, which means that you are looking at pretty good, well-paid players," said Beavis, who has had talks with half a dozen Super League clubs.

In one possible move in the other direction, Sydney City could be about to shift their attention from Leeds's Adrian Morley to Melbourne's Kiwi Test forward, Stephen Kearney.

Salford's Brad Hepi has been banned for two matches after being sent off for a head-high tackle in the defeat by Halifax on Sunday, but Nick Pinkney has been told he has no case to answer after being placed on report in the same match.

Queensland had Gorden Tallis sent off for verbally abusing the referee, Bill Harrigan, as they were beaten 20-16, against the run of play, by New South Wales in the first State of Origin match in Sydney yesterday.

Queensland led virtually throughout but had Tallis dismissed when he objected to a clear knock-on in the build-up to Ryan Girdler's equalising try nine minutes from time. Five minutes later David Peachey went over for the winning try.