International View: Mini back to where it all began

NRL.com has a quick look at what else is happening in international rugby league this week beyond the Trans-Tasman Test.

Rhinos awake from their slumber

It may be 11 years since South Africa last participated in a Rugby League World Cup, however the Rhinos took a positive step in their quest to qualify for the 2013 tournament by defeating the Canada Wolverines 36-22 in Toronto last Sunday.

Whilst the Wolverines may not be eligible to qualify for the 2013 tournament, the South Africans will take heart knowing that they were the only national team to defeat the Canadians on home soil this season, as they head into their opening Atlantic World Cup qualifying match against the USA Tomahawks this weekend.

International experience aplenty
Despite some recent media reports suggesting that this Sunday’s Bill Kelly Cup Test referee Phil Bentham has only ever controlled one other international in his career, the fact is Bentham has been heavily involved in officiating international matches over the past four years.

From the Atlantic Cup last year in the USA, to World Cup qualifiers in 2007 throughout Europe, Bentham has an impressive, growing resume.

Minichiello goes full circle
It’s been a long time between drinks but this Saturday Anthony Minichiello will return to where he kick-started his international rugby league career when he runs out for Italy against Russia.

Not since 1999, when he was an 18-year-old emerging talent running around in the lower grades at the Sydney Roosters, has Mini pulled on the jersey of the Azzurri – but despite the many years of football that have passed, the now veteran’s desire to help Italy qualify for a World Cup has not wavered.

“It’s great to be putting on the blue jersey again,” Minichiello enthused at the tournament press conference. “I played in 1999 and we didn’t get the job done; this time around we want to create history and make the World Cup.”

Lebanon were the side that stopped Italy’s charge back in 1999, but this time the Azzurri have recruited well, boasting several current NRL players including Cameron Ciraldo (Knights), Joel Riethmuller (Cowboys) and Vic Mauro (Sea Eagles) – plus of course former Panther Craig Gower following his return to rugby league.

On the other hand their opponents, the Russia Bears, have drawn completely from their domestic competitions.

Lebanon eyeing happy omen
The last time Lebanon qualified for a World Cup they had to play off against Italy, and then faced Wales in the main tournament. Once again the Cedars will be placed in the same World Cup Qualifier as Italy, and again if they qualify for the tournament they’ll take on joint tournament host, the Welsh. An omen, perhaps?

Regardless, if Lebanon are on track for another World Cup berth, they’ll need to overcome Serbia this Sunday in Tripoli. In what will be the fourth time Lebanon and Serbia have gone head to head, the Cedars will go into the match as heavy favourites.

Eligibility a roadblock for Hurrell
He may have been one of the most devastating centres in Toyota Cup this year, but Konrad Hurrell was ruled ineligible for the Junior Kiwis in the lead-up to this Sunday’s international against the Junior Kangaroos due to residency issues.

Despite the fact Hurrell attended Auckland Grammar for the past two seasons he is still a resident of his native homeland, Tonga, and thus was not able to be named by the selectors.

He wasn’t the only player to miss out representing New Zealand in the international, with Canberra’s Josh Papalii also ruled ineligible having played too many NRL games this season.

Chisholm for France
The Melbourne Storm have continued their recent trend of producing international-quality halves with the news that 21-year-old Dane Chisholm is set to represent France for the first time when Les Chanticleers take on RFL’s new national development team, the England Knights, this Sunday.


Internationals this weekend:
Atlantic World Cup Qualifiers
15th October – USA Tomahawks v South Africa Rhinos: Philadelphia, USA.

European World Cup Qualifiers
15th October – Italy Azzurri v Russia Bears: Padova, Italy.
16th October – Lebanon Cedars v Serbia: Tripoli, Lebanon.

Development Internationals
15th October – England Academy v France Chanticleers: Leigh, England.
16th October – Junior Kangaroos v Junior Kiwis: Newcastle, Australia.

Other Internationals
16th October – Scotland v Ireland Wolfhounds: Glasgow, Scotland.
16th October – Australia Kangaroos v NZ Kiwis: Newcastle, Australia.