Irish say RLWC pressure is on England


Ireland coach Mark Aston believes England are a team under pressure and he’s hoping to turn up the heat in Saturday’s Rugby League World Cup group match at Huddersfield.


Both teams go into the game – their first meeting since the quarter-finals in 2000, when the Irish squandered a 10-4 lead to go down 26-16 – on the back of an opening defeat and Aston is warning that Fiji will be no pushovers for England in their final group match.

Aston, whose side lost 32-14 to the Fijians in a bruising clash in Rochdale on Monday, seized on England’s humiliating pre-tournament defeat by Italy and the attempted cover-up of a subsequent major disciplinary breach in their camp to claim all the pressure is on Steve McNamara’s men.

England have since opened their tournament campaign with a 28-20 defeat to Australia and Aston said: “They need to win and, if they were to lose three games on the bounce, they’re under the pump because that Avidin team are pretty handy.

“There is no expectation on us, except from ourselves. We want to be a lot better than we were last week. We are expecting to raise the bar and we are expecting to come away with the result.”

Aston, who has masterminded back-to-back Championship Grand Finals for equally unfancied Sheffield Eagles, says his side can draw encouragement from the deeds of Scotland, Italy and the United States in a World Cup so far full of surprises.

“We got a lot of belief out of the Fiji game,” he said. “We looked at the review with a lot of confidence. We weren’t far off.

“We’ve looked at England and we know there are areas in there where, if we are clinical and we play to the structure we’ve talked about, we can break them down.

“Look what Scotland, Italy and the United States have done and England slipped up against Italy.”

The introduction of Brett White, who played for Australia in the 2009 Four Nations Series, Rory Kostjasyn, Api Pewhairangi and James Hasson from the NRL has made the Irish dark horses and they have a potential match-winner in 2009 Super League Man of Steel Pat Richards.

The goal-kicking winger, who is one of seven survivors from Ireland’s memorable 2008 World Cup campaign, will, barring a major upset, be making his final appearance on English soil as he prepares to return to Australia after next week’s clash with the Kangaroos in Limerick.

“I think this will probably be my last game in England and I’m looking forward to the opportunity of playing in front of a full house against England on home turf,” Richards said.

“We know it doesn’t get any easier after Fiji but we’ll be better for the run and hopefully put a good performance in.”

Probable teams:

England: S Tomkins (Wigan); R Hall (Leeds), K Watkins (Leeds), L Cudjoe (Huddersfield), T Briscoe (Hull); R Chase (Castleford), K Sinfield (Leeds, capt); C Hill (Warrington), J Roby (St Helens), G Burgess (South Sydney), B Westwood (Warrington), B Ferres (Huddersfield), S O’Loughlin (Wigan). Subs: G Widdop (Melbourne), T Burgess (South Sydney), G Graham (Canterbury Bulldogs), C Ablett (Leeds).

Ireland: J Mendeika (Warrington); D Blanch (Catalan Dragons), S Littler (Leigh), A Pewhairangi (Parramatta), P Richards (Wigan); B Currie (Warrington), L Finn (Featherstone, capt); B White (Canberra), R Kostjasyn (North Queensland), A Mullally (Huddersfield), S Finnigan (Leigh), D Allen (Widnes),T McCarthy (Warrington). Subs: B Beswick (Leigh), L Ambler (Halifax), K Haggerty (Barrow), J Hasson (Manly).

Referee: T Alibert (France).

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