Tuesday 24 September 2019

Ireland ready for World Cup opener with Italy after Tonga warm-up

Liam Finn is happy with Ireland's preparations for Sunday's World Cup opener
Liam Finn is happy with Ireland's preparations for Sunday's World Cup opener

Ireland warmed up for their World Cup opener against Italy by tackling the star-studded Tongans.

Wolfhounds coach Mark Aston did not want to risk picking up injuries to his key players by playing a trial match but organised an opposed training session with Tonga, who play Scotland in the second part of a double-header at Cairns' Barlow Park on Sunday.

The Pacific Islanders boast Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita among their ranks but both teams agreed to limit the physicality of the session.

"It was not really that realistic because it was too stop-start," Ireland captain Liam Finn said. "We wanted to look at stuff which didn't take into account fatigue.

"There was no full-on contact but it was pretty useful to have a proper defence in front of us for the first time. We got a feel for it."

Ireland have drawn the short straw by playing first on Sunday but Finn is happy with the preparation.

"We're kicking off at two o'clock in the afternoon so it will be tough conditions but it's the same for both of us," said the Wakefield half-back.

"It's been really good preparation, we've had nearly two weeks here. We think we've prepared well but you never know until you actually get on the field and start playing a game."

All four teams based in Cairns got together to attend a civic reception in the city and Finn says they have been gleaning some inside information on Sunday's opponents from the newest member of their backroom team, Brett White, a former Canberra forward who played for Ireland in the last World Cup.

"We've done a little bit of homework on them," Finn said. "They played in Innisfail against Tonga and we've had a look at that video.

"How much relevance that has got I'm not sure but we've certainly seen a bit on a few of their individuals and we know a few already, people like Terry Campese and Josh Mantellato.

"And we've got some inside information on a few others from Brett White, who is in our camp. We've done as much as we can but it will down to how we perform on the day."

Italy are captained by Hull second rower Mark Minichiello and include full-back James Tedesco, who was close to gaining a call-up for the Kangaroos, and Jack Johns, son of former Wigan half-back Matty and nephew of all-time great Joey Johns.

PA Media

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