Tuesday 17 September 2019

Issac Luke and Luke Keary put themselves forward for Ireland's World Cup squad

Issac Luke wants to play for Ireland
Issac Luke wants to play for Ireland

New Zealand international Issac Luke and his former South Sydney team-mate Luke Keary put their hands up to play for Ireland in the 2017 World Cup.

Hooker Luke, who has won 37 caps for the Kiwis, tried to switch his allegiance after being left out of David Kidwell's squad but was thwarted by red tape while stand-off Keary, now with Sydney Roosters, was ruled out through injury, much to the frustration of Ireland coach Mark Aston.

"We got a list from the NRL telling us who qualifies and Issac Luke, who qualifies through his grandparents, put his hands up," Aston said.

"We're a bit gutted because he didn't get the paperwork in on time. I think he thought he'd probably play for New Zealand and by the time he came back to us the chance has gone.

"But he wants to play for Ireland one day.

"Luke Keary would have also been massive for us. He 100 per cent wants to play and we were excited to have him but he had to pull out to have hip surgery."

Even without the NRL duo, Aston has been able to name an experienced squad led by Wakefield veterans Liam Finn and Scott Grix.

The 24-man squad includes four domestic players alongside 14 Super League regulars, including Wigan hooker Michael McIlorum, a survivor from 2008 who is reverting to his original choice after playing for England in the last World Cup, St Helens forwards Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Kyle Amor and Leeds' Grand Finalists Anthony Mullally and Brad Singleton.

Ireland will fly out next Friday in order to give themselves a fortnight's acclimatisation to help them prepare for matches in the tropical heat of Northern Queensland and Papua New Guinea but they have no warm-up game arranged.

"We were hoping to have an opposed session against Scotland because they're in Cairns at the same time but we haven't been able to quite nail that," Aston said.

" Players are coming off the back of a long season so they need time to unwind just a little bit before we go into camp and then we'll do the work that needs to be done.

"It's only three or four weeks since they last played so it's just about repairing and managing them and hitting the ground running in that first game.

"We're fortunate that we can go a little bit earlier. Ireland are investing a lot of money into that first week for us because the money doesn't start coming through until the 22nd of October. We're going into camp a week before because we need two weeks to prepare."

Ireland's opening game is against Italy in Cairns on October 29. They then take on PNG in Port Moresby on November 5 and play their final group game against Wales in Perth on November 12.

That last game will be played as a curtain-raiser to France v England, the team Ireland are hoping to meet in the quarter-finals.

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