ROOSTERS fullback Anthony Minichiello required the same protection as a Michelangelo to lead Italy in their World Cup qualifiers next month.
Italy start their 2013 World Cup campaign on October 15 when they play Russia in northern Italy before competing against Serbia and Lebanon in the European zone qualifiers. However, after Minichiello's outstanding form for the Sydney Roosters and the NSW State of Origin team, the Federazione Italiana Rugby League was required to pay a high insurance premium to secure him.
Italy's media officer, outgoing Manly official Peter Peters, revealed a large portion of the $30,000 from a recent fund-raiser to insure the team was set aside to cover Minichiello.
''The Roosters have shown a great insight into the [need to develop the code internationally] by allowing Mini to play, but it obviously cost a substantial amount to insure him," Peters said. "I am very impressed by the way in which Mini has embraced the whole thing, he's been outstanding and very enthusiastic."
Securing Minichiello, who won the Golden Boot award in 2005 as the world's best player, could prove to be the best investment the federation had made in its 60-year history. "It is certainly a great honour to lead Italy's national team," Minichiello said. "Our goal is to finish on top of our group and to make the next World Cup.
"Italy has a small competition of 10 or so teams and they're working very hard to develop that. We have a lot of new players in the squad and we'll have a better idea of where we are at after the first game."
The Italians hoped to galvanise their squad for the qualifiers with former Kangaroos halfback Craig Gower, who recently signed with English Super League team Harlequins after a stint as an Italian rugby union international. While Gower was said to be "dead keen", Minichiello said he would need to overcome a knee injury.
Regardless, the pair emphasise the potential of Italy's World Cup team - NRL-calibre players joining them in the Azzurri XIII include Manly's Vic Mauro, Newcastle's Cameron Ciraldo, North Queensland's Joel Riethmuller and former Wests Tigers forward Rocky Trimarchi.