Sport Rugby

Thursday 19 April 2018

Aston praises White's heroic influence on rocky road

England 42 Ireland 0

Ian Laybourn

Coach Mark Aston has publicly thanked Canberra Raiders prop Brett White for his bravery during Ireland's difficult World Cup campaign.

White (31) was singled out by Aston for his part in the Wolfhounds' opening 32-14 defeat by Fiji, claiming he was the best player on the pitch "by a country mile".

He also lavished praise on the former Kangaroo for defying an early head knock to lead Ireland's challenge in Saturday's 42-0 loss to England, which effectively ended their hopes of qualification from the toughest group.

"He went back on but it was probably tougher for him to come off in the first place," Aston said.

"He didn't want to come off. We kept getting messages out to him and he said he was good. He'd have stayed out there if we had let him."

White, who qualifies through his Irish grandfather, was one of four NRL players recruited by Aston, who has been especially delighted by the contribution of the tough-tackling front-rower.

"He's a champion," Aston said. "He's certainly come over here and set the tone for us. I know he has helped (captain) Liam (Finn) a lot. He just speaks sense and gets his point across."

INJURY

White had put his hand up to play for Andy Kelly's team in the 2008 World Cup but was ruled out by a foot injury.

He went on to play for the Kangaroos in the 2009 Four Nations Series and was in the team that beat England 46-16 in the final at Elland Road, but he never gave up hope of representing Ireland in memory of his late grandfather.

"Growing up, I was very close to my grandfather," White said. "Working on the farm with him as a kid taught me many valuable life lessons.

"That's why I wanted to play in the last World Cup. Unfortunately I got ruled out late, so I was grateful I got the opportunity to be part of this one."

White is now set to face his fellow countrymen, including his Canberra team-mate Josh Papalii, as Ireland prepare for their final group game against Australia in Limerick on Saturday night.

Aston's men will need to pull off one of the biggest sporting shocks of all time if they are to topple the tournament favourites, but Finn insisted his players will perform with pride when they run out at Thomond Park.

"That 20-minute purple patch by England killed the game off, but you've seen 17 blokes out there having a dig," Finn said. "They put plenty of pride in the shirt.

"We've got to do that again next week and, if we do, we'll walk away from the tournament happy with ourselves."

Irish Independent

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