Saturday 24 February 2018

Ireland coach Mark Aston preparing for 'must-win' clash with Spain

George King (right) will make his Ireland debut in Valencia
George King (right) will make his Ireland debut in Valencia

Ireland launch their bid for a place at the 2017 World Cup in Valencia on Saturday when they take on minnows Spain in a match coach Mark Aston says is a must-win fixture.

The Spaniards cannot afford to lose after going down 40-6 to Russia in their opening European Pool B qualifying match in Moscow last Saturday and Aston is expecting them to produce a response.

"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," Aston said.

"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."

Ireland wil l give a debut to Warrington forward George King, one of five Super League players set to bolster a domestic squad hammered 68-16 by Jamaica in Bray last Saturday.

"I'm looking forward to seeing some of the domestic lads," Aston said. "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 will 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."

Spain are boosted by the inclusion of former French international scrum-half Nicolas Munoz while reserve Hull forward Joel Laynez is set to make his debut.

Spain (from): C Lopez (Army RL), A Puerta (Custodians Madrid), J Laynez (Hull FC), I Ordaz (Irreductibles), C Laguerre (Los Gossos), A Doutres, C Bringuier, L Torres, N Munoz (Palau Xlll), K Aparicio (Paris XV), M Dulley (Paterna Dragons), M Charters-Blanco (Seaton Rangers), G Morro (Tonneins), A Davila, R Simo (Torrent Tigres), A Alonso, A Pilkington, L Thorp (Valencia Warriors), D Garcia (Warrington Woolston Rovers).

Ireland (from): G Gill (Ballynahinch Rabbitohs), C Hall (Belfast Met Scholars), J Keyes (Bradford), H Peacock (Carcassonne), J Kelly, M Russell (Dublin City Exiles), A McMahon (Galway Tribesmen), L Ambler (Halifax), O Roberts (Huddersfield), C Dunne (Longhorns RL), W Hope (Oldham), J Hasson (Parramatta), M Hadden (Rochdale), S McDonnell (St Helens), S Littler (Swinton), L Finn, S Grix (Wakefield), G King (Warrington), D Allen (Whitehaven).

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