When Italy defeated England 15-14 in the lead up to the 2013 World Cup it sent shock waves through the world of rugby league.
The Azzurri then kicked off the competition by impressively defeating Wales 32-16 at the Millennium Stadium but failed to qualify from group C after a 30 all draw with Scotland and a 16-0 defeat to Tonga.
Despite this, the Italian side had gained many admirers for their performances and four years on they have once again qualified for the showpiece event, this time determined to go much further.
Their captain back in 2013 was the legendary Anthony Minichiello and although the former Roosters great won’t be coming out of retirement later this year, he will be part of their coaching staff.
“I have spoken to head coach Cam Ciraldo and he wants me as part of the team,” Minichiello told Rugby AM.
“For me it was a no brainier, I said I would definitely jump on board in the World Cup and try develop the Italian rugby league team to get even better.”
After threatening to make a big impact four years ago, the 2017 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand could be an opportunity for the Italians to really make their mark.
NRL stars James Tedesco, Aidan Guerra, Kade Snowden and Paul Vaughan could all feature along with the experienced Terry Campese, Mark Minichiello and Josh Mantellato.
“We have got a few guys that are eligible to get selected for the Australian team,” Mini explained.
“There is James Tedesco, Aidan Guerra and a couple more there. Those guys have already said to me if they don’t get picked for the Australia then they will be playing for Italy, which is exciting.”
Italy kick-off their 2017 World Cup campaign against Ireland at Barlow Park in Cairns on Sunday 29 October. They are placed in Group D alongside 2013 semi-finalists Fiji and the USA with the group winners advancing through to the quarter-finals.