Saturday 15 December 2018

'Proud' Mark Aston wants Ireland to bow out on a high

Wigan hooker Michael McIlorum will be a key player for Ireland in their World Cup clash with Wales
Wigan hooker Michael McIlorum will be a key player for Ireland in their World Cup clash with Wales

Ireland coach Mark Aston is calling on his team to sign off in style when they meet Wales in their final World Cup Group C game at the Rectangular Stadium on Sunday.

The Irish have been one of the success stories of the tournament but will miss out on a place in the knockout stages if Papua New Guinea defeat the United States in their last group game in Port Moresby.

"We're disappointed because we set the objective of getting to the quarter-finals and playing against England," Aston said.

"But I've got to say I'm immensely proud of what the boys stand for as a team and how well they've gelled. We started the series off with an impressive win over Italy and we had a real tough slog against PNG.

"All we need to do for the last game is put both of them together and get the ultimate performance and sign off in style. That's what we aiming to do."

Centre Michael Morgan is ruled out of Sunday's game through concussion, a legacy of Ireland's bruising 14-6 defeat by the Kumuls.

"It was the toughest match I've ever seen," Aston said. "Bodies were broken and battered and we've had to pull them a little bit back this week.

"But with people like Micky Mac (McIlorum) and Brad Singleton in the team, they're not going to take a backwards step against anybody."

Bradford stand-off Joe Keyes, Sheffield winger Will Hope and Rochdale forward Matty Hadden will all make their first appearances of the tournament.

"Matty has been to the last two World Cups and not played a game but he will play on Sunday," Aston said.

"We'll give him some time on the field and put a smile on his face. He'll be 10-foot tall, there's no doubt about it."

The game will see Aston pit his wits against his old Sheffield Eagles boss John Kear - both men were among a reunion of the 1998 Challenge Cup-winning team in Perth on Friday night - and is expecting the Welsh to be fired up.

"We know that Wales are going to throw everything at us because they'll be really disappointed with how they've gone," Aston added. "We've got to be mindful of that."

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