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RLWC 2017 preview: Ireland intent on being the World Cup surprise packet

(Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Roar Guru
26th October, 2017
2

After being placed in the pool of death in 2013, Ireland come into their fourth successive World Cup campaign with plenty more optimism in 2017.

Wolfhounds coach Mark Aston has named a strong side with the intent of reaching the pointy end of the tournament.

Ireland Wolfhounds
RLIF World Ranking: 7
Best Result: Quarter Finalists (2000, 2008)
2013 Finish: 14th
2013 RLWC Odds: $1001

Currently ranked seventh in the world, Ireland arrives at the 2017 world cup with no fans in the bookmakers’ eyes, having been given the longest odds to take out the trophy.

The Wolfhounds have had a 50 per cent win ratio over the past four years in games against the other European nations.

In 2014, they were two tries away from taking out the European Cup which was decided on differential after France, Scotland and Ireland ended the competition on equal points.

The following year they were trounced in matches against Wales and France and will need to improve significantly at this tournament.

Ireland has seen an uptake of 150 per cent in competition numbers during 2017 on the back of the Wolfhounds’ qualification into the RLWC.

There are currently eight clubs within the Emerald Isle’s domestic competition, however, the majority of Aston’s squad below have been picked from teams in the Super League and UK lower divisions.

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Team line up
1. Scott Grix
2. Shannon McDonnell
3. Ed Chamberlain
4. Michael Morgan
5. Liam Kay
6. Api Pewhairangi
7. Liam Finn (c)
8. Brad Singleton
9. Michael McIlorum
10. Kyle Amor
11. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook
12. Oliver Roberts
13. George King

14. Tyrone McCarthy
15. James Hasson
16. Joe Philbin
17. Anthony Mullally

Squad Members: Joe Keyes, Will Hope, Jack Higginson, Matty Hadden, Casey Dunne, Alan McMahon, Toby King, James Kelly

There are a few players with international experience in the side mostly through participation at recent world cups such as Grix, Finn, Hasson, Mullaly and also players such as McCarthy-Scarsbrook who have been in high stakes matches like the 2014 Super League grand final.

The St Helens star, along with his skipper, are two of the most experienced in the side, however, Wakefield Trinity favourite Grix is going to be vital to Ireland’s chances.

Key players
Scott Grix and Liam Finn have both a played a role in the successful season that the Wildcats produced in Super League 2017. Their combination and experience will be the key to Ireland’s chances of gaining victory in matches during the RLWC.

The skipper, Finn, had a testimonial match held in his honour while at Featherstone Rovers four years ago and at 33, a chance to represent Ireland at another World Cup is one he won’t be taking as a privilege.

Fixtures and opponents
Versus Italy at Barlow Park, Cairns – Sun 29th Oct 3pm AEDT
Versus Papua New Guinea at OSNF Stadium, Port Moresby – Sun 5th Nov 5pm AEDT
Versus Wales at Perth Rectangular Stadium, Perth – Sun 12th Nov 6:30pm AEDT

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Key match
The Wolfhound’s match against Wales should be an absolute belter in Perth and one to watch for rugby league fans. However, the key match for Ireland in terms of progression is the game in Port Moresby against the Kumuls.

A victory against Papua New Guinea will give the Irish a very good chance of progressing through to the quarter-final stage.

RLWC 2017 prospects
Ireland could use the luck of the Irish in 2017 and will need to pull on as much of that as they can if they are chasing a quarter-final berth.

Having been placed in Pool C, Mark Aston’s side will need to top the pool to progress to the knockout stage and in order to achieve that will have to win at least two games including the Papua New Guinea game which will be played in front of an enormous crowd at Port Moresby.

The competitiveness they showed during their last visit down under in 2008 will need to be a prerequisite for this campaign.