The Ireland rugby league team has announced the squad for its upcoming two test series which culminates in a mouth-watering clash with the England Knights in Belfast this month.
Coach Mark Aston’s squad sees a healthy mix of players from Ireland’s domestic rugby league competition as well as a number of players from England’s Super League - one of the world’s two big rugby league competitions.
The game against England, which will be the first international rugby league match in Belfast since the 2000 World Cup when Ireland beat Samoa, kicks off at 6.00pm on Saturday, October 20 at Deramore Park (NB: the game has been moved from an original Friday night, 7.30pm kick off to this new time the following day).
Training and taking the field alongside players from Wigan Warriors, Warrington Wolves and Leeds Rhinos - the latter two of which will contest the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford on Saturday - are men who play their club games for teams like Antrim Eels, Athboy Longhorns and the Dublin City Exiles. A total of seven domestic players feature in the 30-man squad, which also has a total of 13 uncapped players, as preparations continue for next year’s World Cup.
The England Knights will feature a host of star names taken from Super League.
After announcing the squad, coach Mark Aston said: "I am looking forward to this year's Alitalia Cup as we are bringing through some new faces who will get their chance to showcase their skills in a good tournament."
"We have recently had tough matches against Scotland and England Knights so we are hoping to improve on those performances as we continue to prepare for the 2013 World Cup."
"It's great to be able to call up new domestic players who have played well for their provinces and for Ireland 'A'. This is a good chance for them to be part of the senior squad and show me what they are about."
The match is part of both England and Ireland’s preparation for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, which will be held in England and Wales – with the Irish side also playing next week against Scotland in Edinburgh on October 14 as part of the three-team 2012 Alitalia European Cup.
Ireland have won three and lost two of their last five meetings with Scotland, and will be hoping to maintain that recent winning record with another victory. Their only ever game against the England Knights was on June 16, in Sheffield, and they lost 62-4 – although confidence is high that this home match will be much more competitive.
Gordon Matthews, General Manager of Rugby League Ireland, said: "We are delighted to be entering into another Alitalia European Cup in 2012. It's always an exciting time of the year and we are hopeful that we can produce good rugby against England Knights and Scotland as we look towards the World Cup next year."
"The game against England Knights will be the first game in Belfast for twelve years so we are excited to be bringing the Alitalia Cup to Ulster."
Tickets for the match at Deramore Park are priced at £10 for adults, £5 for schoolchildren and students, while families of five (two adults and three children) can all get in for £20. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster, all usual Ticketmaster outlets and will be sold on the door at the game. Rugby League Ireland is looking forward to a good crowd cheering the home team on to what will hopefully be a memorable victory.
The squad in full: Matthew Hadden* (Antrim Eels), Simon Deevy* (Athboy Longhorns), Wayne Kerr (Country Cowboys), Elliot Cosgrove (Dewsbury Rams), Tom McKeown* , Joe Taylor (Dublin City Exiles), Liam Finn (captain, Featherstone Rovers), Luke Ambler, Callum Casey, Paul Handforth, Sean Hesketh (Halifax RLFC), Colton Roache* (Leeds Rhinos), Tommy Goulden, Stuart Littler, Gregg McNally (Leigh Centurions), Joshua Toole* (Mounties), Joe Mulhern* (Oldham Roughyeads), Tim Bergin, Pat Smith (Sheffield Eagles), Brendan Guilfoyle, Aaron McCloskey (Treaty City Titans), Kurt Haggerty, Joel Hinchcliffe*, Sam Wellens* (Unattached), Danny Bridge*, James Mendeika*, Tyrone McCarthy (Warrington Wolves), Matthew Haggerty*, Carl Sice* (Whitehaven RLFC), John O'Donnell* (Wigan Warriors)
*Denotes previously uncapped player
NOTE TO EDITORS:
1. Rugby League Ireland is the official governing body for the game across the whole of the island, administering both the domestic club scene and the national side - their website is http://www.rli.ie
2. The Alitalia European Cup consists of a round robin league between Ireland, Scotland and England Knights. The tournament opens when Ireland play Scotland in Edinburgh on October 14, the Ireland - England Knights match in Belfast is the middle fixture, while Scotland will play the Knights in Edinburgh on October 28 to complete the fixtures.
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