Written by Stuart McLennan
The match will signal the first encounter in the inaugural women’s European Championship B with Ireland, Italy and Wales playing in the north group, and Greece, Serbia and Turkey contesting the south.
The Irish ladies, (14th on world rankings) will be participating in just their second international match after a 26-24 victory last year against Wales in Colwyn Bay.
Ireland head coach John Whalley, who played two matches for Ireland against Russia and the USA in 2004, told Chasing Roos he is expecting a tough contest against Italy who sit at 8th on world rankings after defeating Serbia 26-0 in their last international in 2019.
“I am really looking forward to the test match. It will be a great occasion for both teams. I am expecting a tough battle.
“We will need to be at our best from the start. It has the makings of a good game and one we are looking forward to playing.
“Any international game is special but to have that challenge of travelling to a team higher ranked than you adds to the expectation. It will certainly be the acid test for us to see where we are at as a group.”
Whalley believes the experience his team gained playing against Wales last October will hold them in good stead for the challenge in Udine.
“The first test was a great occasion. To turn a team around in 16 weeks from the first trial session in the UK to the test match in Colwyn Bay was very special. A fantastic team effort from the staff, players, board members and sponsors. Everyone played a massive role and to get the win was a great feeling. We most certainly learned a great lesson if we all work together then good results happen,” Whalley, who also coaches the Wigan Warriors women’s team, said.
While the focus is coming away with a win against Italy this weekend, Whalley and the team have one eye on a further goal of being part of an expanded world cup in France in 2025.
“It (2025 World Cup) is high up there on our list. I have made it no secret that I want us to be competing on that stage in France. These games in Europe are perfect for our development as a nation and as a team. We want to improve camp on camp and take that into our test matches. I believe we are on track towards that World Cup 2025.”
Rugby League Ireland are hoping for a world cup berth on the back of increased interest in women’s rugby league domestically after launching their competition last year.
“Rugby league for women in Ireland is in its very infancy. Just entering its second season it has really taken off and the standard of players is great and it is getting better all the time, Whalley said.
“There's currently a three team comp running at the moment but as the years roll on and the international game gets stronger the domestic competition will get bigger.
“There is more publicity and sponsorship coming onboard now (in women’s rugby league) which will drive participation and the growth will inevitably happen.”
European Championship B Fixtures
11 June - Italy vs Ireland - Pasian Di Pato Rugby Stadium
19 June - Wales vs Italy - Pandy Park, Crosskeys
8/9 October - Ireland vs Wales - TBA.
24/25 September - Turkey vs Greece - TBA
1/2 October - Greece vs Serbia - TBA
8/9 October - Serbia vs Turkey - TBA