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Gareth Thomas scores on Wales debut in loss to Italy

Try-scorer Gareth Thomas is congratulated by his new Wales team-mates
Try-scorer Gareth Thomas is congratulated by his new Wales team-mates

Gareth Thomas scored on his Wales rugby league debut but could not prevent his side losing 13-6 to Italy in Wrexham.

With their opening European Cup match away to Scotland in Glasgow looming on Sunday, Wales coach Iestyn Harris opted to blood 13 new caps in the friendly.

At the other end of the scale was Ian Watson, the Swinton Lions half-back winning a record 27th Wales cap to beat Jim Sullivan's record set in 1939.

But Italy tries from Ben Falcone and Christophe Caligari spoiled Wales' day.

Despite the result of the game, postponed from Sunday because of heavy rain, Harris was happy with what he had seen on the pitch: "I was really really pleased today.

"We had a lot of academy players in the side and for the last 30 to 40 minutes we had nine or 10 kids under the age of 19 playing.

"I think it's really pleasing for the game of rugby league in Wales. The Italians had an experienced side with a lot of Australians who play at a good level and were more experienced than our kids.

"I thought our lads handled themselves with distinction and should be proud of what they've done. We would have liked to have won the game but I'm not too disappointed.

"However we were disappointed to have Sunday's match postponed. It would have been nice for our squad to have had a hit out then but with the game being today, we couldn't risk a lot of our first-choice players.

"We can take some real positives into Sunday's game against Scotland. Gareth Thomas was great for the half-hour that he played, Ben Flower was good too after coming back from injury and Gil Dudson looked good too. We're all looking forward to Sunday now."

We can take some real positives into Sunday's game against Scotland

Wales coach Iestyn Harris

Thomas was making his comeback from injury after three months on the sidelines and made a dream start to his debut, giving Wales the lead on nine minutes.

Watson put the Crusaders wing through, with Lewis Reece converting to give Wales a 6-0 lead.

Lee Williams thought he had followed Thomas over for a try two minutes later but hit the corner flag when diving for the line.

Italy were not going to lie down and forced a goal-line drop-out. They had a chance to score but Thomas was first to a high bomb aimed for Domenico Brunetta and Caligari. Ryan Tramonte was also close but was held short of the line.

The visitors finally levelled things on 34 minutes. Following a 70-metre run from Rhys Lenarduzzi, Caligari, the experienced former France junior international was on hand to ground, Josh Mantellato converting.

Italy put all the early second half pressure on the youthful Welsh line-up and were rewarded 19 minutes into the second period when rising star Falcone scored in the corner. Mantellato did well to convert to put Italy 12-6 up.

There could have been a further score but for Reece's try saving tackle on Raymond Nasso, forcing him into touch.

Reece looked to have gone over for a score-levelling try with five minutes to go but was pulled back for a forward pass.

A solid Italian defence kept Wales at bay, with Ben Stewart kicking a final minute drop-goal to ensure a win for Italy at the Racecourse Ground.

Wales: Andrew Gay (South Wales Scorpions), Ashley Bateman (South Wales Scorpions), Lewis Reece (South Wales Scorpions), Gareth Thomas (Crusaders), Lee Williams (Crusaders), Danny Jones (Keighley Cougars), Ian Watson (Swinton Lions), Gil Dudson (Crusaders), Steve Parry (South Wales Scorpions), Ben Flower (Crusaders), Lewis Mills (Crusaders), Jordan Ross (York City Knights), Geraint Davies (Limoux Grizzlies).
Subs: Chris Davies (Crusaders), Harri Greville (South Wales Scorpions), Joe Burke (South Wales Scorpions), Rhodri Lloyd (Crusaders), Mark Wool (Leeds Rhinos), Dafydd Carter (Crusaders), Jack Pring (Crusaders).

Tries: Thomas (9)

Goals: Reece 1/1

Italy: Dominic Nasso (Parramatta Eels), Josh Mantellato (Newcastle Rebels), Rob Quitadamo (XIII del Ducato), Domenico Brunetta (Grifons Padova), Christophe Caligari (Palau), Ben Stewart (Windsor Wolves), Rhys Lenarduzzi (Sydney Roosters), Andrew Kaleopa (Cabramatta), Raymond Nasso (Windsor Wolves), Ryan Tramonte (Windsor Wolves), Dean Vicelich (Leoni Veneti), Rocky Trimarchi (Crusaders), Ben Falcone (Wests Tigers).
Subs: Alessandro Cuomo (XIII del Ducato), Marcelo Segundo (XIII del Ducato), Matt Sands (Grifons Padova), Fabio Nannini (XIII del Ducato), Jonathan Marcinczak (West Bowling), Liam Zollo (Grifons Padova), Mauro Fusaro (Leoni Veneti).

Tries: Caligari (34), Falcone (59)

Goals: Mantellato 2/2

Drop-goal: Stewart

Half-time: 6-6

Attendance: 2,971

Referee: Bob Thaler (RFL).

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see also
Briers in line for Wales comeback
08 Sep 10 |  Rugby League
Briers hungry for more success
05 Sep 10 |  Rugby League
Thomas targets fitness for Wales
23 Aug 10 |  Rugby League
Thomas makes Wales league squad
03 Aug 10 |  Crusaders
Leeds 6-30 Warrington
28 Aug 10 |  Rugby League
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales

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