Ireland captain Liam Finn says his team will be playing knockout rugby from the start when they kick off their World Cup campaign in a fortnight’s time.
Wakefield Trinity veteran Finn flew out with the Irish squad yesterday for a stopover in Dubai en route to Queensland, where they will set up camp ahead of their opening game against Italy in Cairns on October 29. They then take on Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby on November 5 and play their final group game against Wales in Perth a week later.
With only one team from the group going through to the quarter-finals – and a potential meeting with England in Melbourne – Finn says the aim is to produce a clean sweep of victories.
“There’s no leeway,” he said. “We basically have to win all three games I would imagine.
“The Italy squad looks pretty strong so that will be a big challenge first up and then PNG will probably be another step up with a really good squad and an environment that none of us have experienced before.
“It will be interesting. There is no way through for second place so it’s pretty much knockout from day one for us.”
The Ireland squad is bolstered by the addition of St Helens utility forward Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Leeds Rhinos prop Brad Singleton, alongside their club-mates Kyle Amor and Anthony Mullally.
Wigan’s former England hooker Michael McIlorum, one of the survivors from 2008, also returns.
It might have been even stronger, with NRL duo Issac Luke and Luke Keary demonstrating the sudden popularity of international rugby league around World Cup time by putting their hands up to play for the Wolfhounds only to be thwarted by red tape and injury.