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Knights' Dario Esposito launches World Cup bid
DARIO ESPOSITO flies out to Russia today for his first taste of international rugby league – still without having his future confirmed for 2013.
The Kiwi, who joined York City Knights at the end of June, is in an Italy team that takes on the Russians in the last game of their European Shield campaign, a second-tier international competition for developing rugby league nations. His long-term aim is to make the full Italy squad for next year’s World Cup.
On his return to England, he will sort out his whereabouts next season – which looks increasingly unlikely to be Huntington Stadium, with meetings set up with other Championship clubs next week.
The Knights recruited Esposito from the Queensland Cup competition in Australia, one level below the NRL, signing him for the last seven games of this season with an option to keep him next year.
The Knights did not take up that option, however, and instead have offered him less money, prompting him to look elsewhere.
First things first, the 23-year-old is looking forward to donning the Azzurri jersey – even though he has never been to Italy. He qualifies for the country as both his grandparents are Italian, emigrating to New Zealand from Sorrento.
“There’s a training camp in Australia in October for 32 players who have been identified as potential players in the Italy World Cup squad,” explained Esposito.
“That 32 excludes NRL players who are already in the squad. Basically because I won’t be able to attend that camp in Sydney, this is a game I’ve been asked to play in. Obviously I want to impress. It will be a tough final squad to break into.”
This weekend’s team is largely an amateur side, with the bulk of the players coming from Italy’s developing domestic league. They are coached by Paul Broadbent, the former Knights player-boss. The final World Cup squad will feature mainly Aussies with Italian heritage.
“I don’t know what to expect in terms of standard. I’m probably going to be one of the more experienced players against Russia,” said Esposito of an Italian team who have lost to Serbia but beaten Germany earlier in the competition.
“When the European Cup competition takes place in the autumn, that’s when they will have a stronger team.”
He joked: “I could be the first player to represent a country without ever being there.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s only a short trip and it’s been a rush to sort it all out with visas and stuff but it should be good.”
As for next year, Esposito said he has had little contact with incoming York head coach Gary Thornton.
He added: “York have offered me a contract but I’m considering my options and will make a decision that’s best all round.”