22nd October 2016, 12:54
Ireland face 'must-win' World Cup qualifier against Spain
Ireland v Spain, Saturday 22nd October, Valencia. Kick-off 1.00pm GMT
Coach Mark Aston names reduced squad with two late replacements
Match being streamed live online
Ireland rugby league coach Mark Aston has warned his players that they face a "must-win game" against Spain in their opening World Cup qualifying match this weekend.
Aston is wary of a backlash from the Spanish after they lost to Russia in the opening game of Group B in Moscow last weekend.
The Ireland coach has named a reduced squad of 19 ahead of the crucial clash this Saturday in the Campos Rugby Quatre Carreres stadium in Valencia (kick-off 12pm in Ireland), which is being streamed live online.
The squad is a combination of professionals from the Super League in England and Australia's NRL, as well as six of Ireland's strongest players from the domestic team which recently achieved substantial victories against Italy and Malta before losing to Jamaica last weekend.
There were late call ups to the squad for Hayden Peacock (AS Carcassonne) and Stuart Littler (Swinton) as replacements for the injured Matthew Cahoon and Greg McNally, who is unavailable.
Mark Aston, Ireland Coach said: "Spain will be disappointed after last week's defeat and we expect them to want to compete in front of their own crowd — that means something. It's a must-win game for us. We've had a couple of sessions and we're in Spain for two days before the match so we'll be okay, we have a nucleus of players who have been with the squad for a number of years.
"I'm also looking forward to seeing some of the domestic lads. They have had some games over the last few weeks, recording comfortable wins against Italy and Malta but then coming unstuck against Jamaica's professional players, so it'll be interesting to see how they react to that. We know what standards we set ourselves and it's all about maintaining them in everything we do. We want to be respectful, present ourselves well and ultimately get the job done before heading home to take on Russia."
Richard Egan, Rugby League Ireland Director said: "The squad assembled this week and are in great form. They understand the importance of this game and know they need to make a statement of intent in this group. Russia have already take a lead and if we are to qualify for the world cup victory is vital."
Spain lost to Russia 40-6 in the opening game of group B in Moscow last weekend.
Spain coach Darren Fisher "After our tough trip to Russia last week, this week's training has been about putting some standards in our game that must be adhered to at this level, and the players have understood and taken them on board. We should see that in our performance this week. We know the Ireland squad will be very well organised and with the professionals in their squad will no doubt be a task for us, but that challenge only adds to our excitement"
Ireland are the seeded team of Group B and only the winner qualifies automatically for the World Cup, with the second placed team facing a play-off against either Wales, Italy or Serbia.
After Spain Ireland will face Russia (October 29th) in Bray. The Rugby League World Cup takes place in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea next autumn.
Irish squad: Gareth Gill (Ballynahinch Rabbitohs), Chris Hall (Belfast Met Scholars), Joe Keyes (Bradford Bulls), Haydn Peacock (Carcassonne), James Kelly, Mikey Russell (Dublin City Exiles), Alan McMahon (Galway Tribesmen), Luke Ambler (Halifax), Oliver Roberts (Huddersfield Giants), Casey Dunne (Longhorns RL), Will Hope (Oldham Roughyeds), James Hasson (Parramatta Eels), Matty Hadden (Rochdale Hornets), Shannon McDonnell (St Helens), Stuart Littler (Swinton), Liam Finn, Scott Grix (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats), George King (Warrington Wolves), Dave Allen (Whitehaven).
Mark Aston / Ged Corcoran / Ryan Sheridan - Coaches -
Kat Ferneyhough – Physio
John Morgan - Doctor – Medical
Brian Moore - Kitman
The game will be streamed live via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4DNY3Q9dNs