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Italy out to top group: Minichiello

NRL.com Wed, Oct 23, 2013 - 6:00 AM

Italy are aiming to top their group in their first shot at the Rugby League World Cup, says skipper Anthony Minichiello. Copyright: NRL Photos

Italy captain Anthony Minichiello says a surprising warm-up victory over England can inspire his side to top their group at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

Minichiello said beating pool rivals Wales, Scotland and Tonga is a real possibility, despite the fact the Italy squad only came together in its entirety last week.

The Italians are full of confidence after beating powerhouses England 15-14 on the weekend, and are ready to make their mark on the World Cup for the first time.

"It's exciting," Minichiello told NRL.com. "We've formed a pretty good squad. We had a good trial match against England the other day and came up with a victory, so it gives the team a lot of confidence that we can do something in this tournament.

"I don't know if it shocked us but it definitely gave us a lot of confidence and belief that we can do something special in this competition. We do have a good team that we're trying to build here so that trial match will give us confidence going into the Wales game this week."

Minichiello said the Italians would only improve as the tournament progressed, with the nation's NRL players – particularly himself and fellow Roosters grand final winner Aidan Guerra – only joining up with the squad recently.

"It's hard. The boys have been training for the last couple of weeks but with the NRL guys playing semi-finals and grand finals, we only all came together for our first training session last week in England when we landed. Obviously the game under our belt for the Wales game, and we'll continue to get better as we train on.

"We play Wales first up, then we go on to play Scotland and Tonga in our last round. We want to finish up the top, that's achievable for us and that's where we want to be."

After representing Australia 18 times, Minichiello said spreading rugby league around the planet and representing the country of his heritage were the key motivations for himself and brother Mark at this World Cup.

"This is what the tournament's all about," he said. "You want to have teams that are competitive on the world stage.

"For us, this is the first time Italy has been at the World Cup in its history so it's a pretty proud moment for the country and we're trying to get a stronger level of football over there, so hopefully this will bring a lot of interest to it.

"Obviously I've got some heritage there from my family, my parents, and they're obviously proud that I can represent that and so am I. My brother's here as well so it's always nice to play with your brother and it's been a while since that has happened, so I'm looking forward to it."