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Mark Aston says Ireland are relishing World Cup experience

Louie McCarthy Scarsbrook, pictured, is one of the senior players to whom Ireland coach Mark Aston is looking to set the standards in the World Cup
Louie McCarthy Scarsbrook, pictured, is one of the senior players to whom Ireland coach Mark Aston is looking to set the standards in the World Cup

Ireland will be playing with a smile on their faces in the World Cup, according to coach Mark Aston.

The Irish are among the 500-1 rank outsiders but Aston is confident they can make their mark in their group games against Italy, Papua New Guinea and Wales.

Sunday's game against the Azzurri will be 12 months to the day since Ireland's last match, a 70-16 victory over Russia in Bray that secured them a trip to Australia, but Aston says his team are happy to play the cards they are dealt.

"It's not a level playing field," he said. "Ireland has got no money so we can't do anything, it's tough.

"When we played in the 2013 World Cup we went into camp nine days before the first game because that's when you get paid from. England had a week's high altitude training in South Africa.

"That's part of the motivation for us. It keeps our feet on the ground and enables us to say look, nobody gives us a chance of being successful because they make it difficult for us. We get strength from that.

"Nobody is going to get rich playing for Ireland. They know that from minute one. That makes us stronger as a group. They're playing for pride and the passion that we have all put into this."

Ireland, who faced daunting group games against England, Fiji and Australia in the last World Cup, have been bolstered by the additions of Grand-Final winner Brad Singleton and Londoner Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook.

Aston has also included four domestic players in his 24-man squad and is drawing on his experiences of touring with Great Britain in 1992 to ensure there is a productive blend, allowing the senior players to set the standards.

"My experience with Great Britain will live with me for a long time," Aston said. "I thought Mal Reilly and Phil Larder were amazing in how to handle people.

"This is not a chore, it's enjoyable and why wouldn't it be? At our first meeting I told them I wasn't going to put rules in places. They're professional international rugby league players and the senior players set the discipline of the group.

"Never have I had a problem with discipline, players have been respectful.

"It's about the passion and the opportunity to bond. We're fortunate that now people sing and dance about being involved with Ireland.

"I've been with Ireland for five or six years now and year by year it's getting better. The players are putting their hand up."

Ireland's big test will come when they take on Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby but first up for Aston's men are the unknown quantity of Italy.

"I don't know a lot about them but they will be capable," Aston said. "We want to get to the quarter-finals, that's where we're aiming."

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