WYONG fullback Josh Mantellato may end up playing against Australia in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup in Great Britain if Italy are successful in their qualifiers next month.
The three-time Newcastle Rugby League leading points scorer has been named in a 30-man Italian squad for three World Cup qualifiers next month in Europe.
Sydney Roosters star Anthony Minichiello will captain the Azzurri, who include Penrith-bound Knights second-rower Cameron Ciraldo and former Panthers premiership-winning captain Craig Gower.
‘‘I used to be a massive fan of Minichiello’s back when he was in his prime and to play beside him will probably be very surreal,’’ Mantellato said.
The NSW Country winger made his debut for Italy last September on a friendly tour of Wales.
He qualifies through his paternal grandparents, who came to Australia 50 years ago.
Minichiello, Ciraldo and Gower were not part of the tour and committed to Italy only in the past six months.
Italy’s campaign to qualify for their first World Cup will begin on October 15 at Padova against Russia before matches in Belgrade against Serbia (October 23) and Lebanon (October 29).
The biggest bar to Mantellato playing a major role in the qualifiers is torn ligaments in his right ankle, which he suffered during the semi-finals with Wyong.
He played a week after the injury in the Roos’ 44-12 preliminary final loss to Western Suburbs but struggled to make his usual impact.
Despite the lingering pain in the ankle, Mantellato’s physiotherapist has assured him the injury will recover in time for the European tour.
‘‘I haven’t been able to do much running and sprint work is out,’’ he said.
‘‘I’ve being getting treatment on it every week and resting it as much as possible to help the ligaments repair.’’