Ireland fire in opening win over Italy

Let's say Italy did not enjoy the luck of the Irish.

Instead the Azzurri endured Murphy's Law, losing their halves Terry Campese and Jack Johns before being thumped 36-12 by Ireland in their Rugby League World Cup opener in Cairns on Sunday.

World No.12 Italy may have boasted NRL stars James Tedesco, Paul Vaughan and Nathan Brown but needed fortune to go their way to topple a Wolfhounds outfit stacked with seasoned English Super League players.

But it seemed whatever could go gone wrong did for the Azzurri at a sweltering Barlow Park as world No.8 Ireland opened their World Cup account.

First Italy lost ex-Kangaroos pivot Terry Campese (calf) before the kick-off.

Then the Wolfhounds jumped to a 20-0 lead after 30 minutes with a try scoring double to Toronto Wolfpack winger Liam Kay.

The hammer blow appeared to come in the 43rd minute when halfback Jack Johns - son of ex-Kangaroo Matthew and nephew of Immortal Andrew - came off with a suspected fractured arm.

Yet Italy somehow bounced back in draining humidity to cut the deficit to 20-12 by the 48th minute when centre Nathan Milone crossed from a Ryan Ghietti kick.

That's where the resistance ended as Ireland ran out seven tries to two winners in a match staged in quarters after the heat rule was invoked.

It was a morale-boosting victory for Ireland who endured a win-less 2013 World Cup after making the quarter-finals in 2000 and 2008.

Halfback Liam Finn - Ireland's most capped player in his 31st Test - was inspirational for the Wolfhounds.

Ireland are also grouped with PNG and Wales, with only one team going through to the quarter-finals.

They next play hosts PNG on Sunday, with the hosts buzzing after their big win over Wales in Port Moresby.

The Azzurri - at their second World Cup - are grouped with Fiji and the USA.

They next face the winless USA in Townsville on Sunday.

Italy are contesting their second World Cup.