Wednesday 25 April 2018

Captain Finn leads by example, says Ireland coach Aston

Wakefield half-back Liam Finn will be hoping to take his impressive domestic form into the World Cup with Ireland
Wakefield half-back Liam Finn will be hoping to take his impressive domestic form into the World Cup with Ireland

Ireland coach Mark Aston says making Liam Finn captain of his country was one of the best decisions he has ever made.

The veteran Wakefield scrum-half is Ireland's record points scorer, jointly holds the record for most caps and is poised to play in his third World Cup, having first appeared in 2008 in Australia and captained his country in 2013.

The former Halifax, Featherstone and Castleford goal-kicking half-back turns 34 in the second week of the tournament, but is coming off the back of an impressive season with his club, who narrowly missed out on the Super League play-off semi-finals.

"He's a champion," Aston said. "He's like wine, he's got better with age. He's certainly lifted Wakefield up to where they are.

"I think there were question marks over whether he could still do it, but he's delivered.

"Why he wasn't a contender for Man of Steel, I'll never know, that's how good a year he's had, and he'll take that form into the World Cup.

"People might have raised their eyebrows when I made him captain for the last World Cup, but I think it was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

"People like him and Bob Beswick, who had to miss out because his first baby is due, have epitomised what I believe rugby is about."

Ireland flew out to Queensland to set up camp a week ago after officials provided the extra cash to give the squad more time to acclimatise and bond together before their opening match against Italy in Cairns on Sunday week, a gesture that Finn says is appreciated by the players.

"There's not a lot of money in Ireland," he said. "It's all done by volunteers, so we're really grateful they've done that and hopefully it will stand us in good stead for the games and we can repay them by performing well and getting some good results."

Aston has long-serving assistants Ged Corcoran and Ryan Sheridan on board once more and they have been joined by former Ireland international Brett White, who has recently been appointed as assistant coach at Canberra but is keen to remain active with the Irish team following his retirement as a player.

"Wherever he goes, he carries a photo on his key ring that we had taken in Ireland in 2013," Aston said. "He loves his involvement with Ireland."

The training camp will be invaluable for Ireland as they seek to hit the ground running, despite not having played a match for 12 months, not that Finn is complaining.

"Every team that we're playing is pretty much the same so it's not as if we're disadvantaged," Finn said. "PNG (Papua New Guinea) are not going to have met up before and Italy probably haven't met up for four years.

"I think the extra week will help us get a feel for each other and work out the best way to get out the best of all of us."

Press Association

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