By Brad Walter - RLWC2017 Chief Correspondent
After being selected for the Prime Minister's XIII to play Papua New Guinea on 23 October, Dragons prop Paul Vaughan was told by Australian coach Mal Meninga he is under consideration for a place in the Kangaroos squad at the Rugby League World Cup.
Vaughan can’t lose – especially after taking home the Dragons Red V Members Player of the Year and the Geoff Selby Memorial Trophy.
However, Vaughan had already set himself to play for Italy and has friends and family lined up to come and watch the Azzurri’s match against Fiji at Canberra Stadium on 10 November.
"Italy play Fiji in Canberra but I haven’t really looked at where Australia play," Vaughan said.
"I have got a lot of Italian friends in Canberra so they would be stoked if I play for Italy but they’d also be happy no matter who I play for.
"I am Australian-born so I would love to play for Australia but I have played for Italy before at the 2013 World Cup so I think it’s a good position to be in."
Vaughan, who has an Italian-born grandmother, was a member of the Azzurri side which upset England in a warm-up match on the eve of the last World Cup.
Among his Italy team-mates was James Tedesco, who is another player making his first trip to PNG with the PM's XIII, along with Fiji hooker Apisai Koroisau, his Manly teammate Dylan Walker and Cronulla pair Jack Bird and Valentine Holmes.
All have the chance to push their claims for a place in the Australian World Cup squad when they face PNG at Oil Search National Football Stadium in Port Moresby but if not selected Tedesco and Vaughan will line up for the Cameron Ciraldo-coached Azzurri.
"Italian rugby league has done a lot for me in the past, I have got that recognition since I played in the last World Cup, so I would be keen to play for them again," Vaughan said.
"That was a good experience and Teddy has gone on to do some unbelievable stuff in the game so it is going to be good to be in camp with him again."
Under the new international eligibility rules introduced this year, players who are eligible for more than one nation can opt to play for a second-tier country if not chosen by Australia, England or New Zealand.
Other players likely to play for Italy include Parramatta forwards Nathan Brown and Daniel Alvaro, Sydney Roosters back-rower Aidan Guerra, Wigan centre Oliver Gildart, Hull’s Mark Minichiello and former Raiders playmaker Terry Campese.
"I think the [eligibility] rules are good, I think it strengthens each country and gives players the best of both worlds," Vaughan said.
"The Italian team is forming a pretty strong squad with Campo playing the six or seven so they are in a good position."
The selection of the 26-year-old St George Illawarra prop for the PM’s XIII caps his best season in the NRL since debuting for the Raiders in 2013.
"It’s been a really good move for me this year going to the Saints," he said. "I set myself some solid goals and I thought if I could play a good consistent level of football week in and week out I could achieve some things.
"It’s just a really good feeling to think I am in the mix for Australia at the World Cup. I am very passionate about playing this game [in PNG] and giving myself the best opportunity because playing for Australia is the pinnacle of rugby league but if it doesn’t work out I will play for Italy."