Sport Rugby

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Irish coach Mark Aston promises England a torrid reception

Ian Laybourn

Ireland coach Mark Aston is hoping his side can capitalise on their surprise opening win over Scotland when they take on a star-studded England Knights in the Alitalia Cup in Belfast tomorrow evening.

Aston, fresh from guiding Sheffield Eagles to their first Championship Grand Final success, enjoyed his first win as Ireland head coach when they opened their campaign with a 30-18 triumph in Edinburgh last Sunday.

But he knows they will face a much tougher task against a Knights side brimming with emerging and proven Super League talent that trounced Ireland 62-4 in St Helens in June.

"The Knights are filled with big names and we will be big underdogs but that just means a good result will be even better," Aston said.

"For the Ireland players that makes this game truly special - it's a challenge, a responsibility, a test and a huge occasion.

"Our lads will no doubt want to rip into their opponents from the kick-off, throw everything into each and every tackle and make it a night for themselves and the fans to savour.

"We are going to go out there and play as well as we can, leave nothing behind."

The game at Deramore Park will be the first rugby league international to be staged in Belfast since the 2000 World Cup, in which Ireland beat Samoa in their opening match at Windsor Park.

They went on to reach the quarter-finals that year and in 2008 were within 80 minutes of making the last four in Australia after another impressive campaign.

The Alitalia Cup, which ends on Sunday week when the Scots host the Knights, is seen as crucial preparation for the 2013 World Cup for both teams.

Knights coach Kieron Purtill, charged with preparing the next batch of players for England, has a 100 per cent record so far but will not be underestimating their latest opponents.

"We've got a strong squad available and we're putting pressure on ourselves to win and ensure we keep the legacy of previous Knights teams going," said Purtill.

"Mark Aston got his first win in charge of Ireland last week and they've got the upper hand in the competition now so we have to go over there and make sure we get a result.

"That's not going to be easy. Scotland were favourites last Sunday and we've watched the video and Ireland put in a very good performance.

"They have a lot of good pros like Liam Finn, who knows how to control a game, Tyrone McCarthy and Greg McNally, who add skill and guile and they have other threats all over the field."

Ireland (from): M Hadden (Antrim), S Deevy (Athboy), W Kerr (Country Cowboys), E Cosgrove (Dewsbury), T McKeown (Dublin City), L Finn (Featherstone, capt), L Ambler, C Casey, S Hesketh (all Halifax), S Wellens (Ireland Students), S Littler, G McNally (Leigh), J Toole (Mounties), C Roche (Leeds), A McCloskey (Treaty City), T Bergin (Sheffield), J Mendeika, T McCarthy (Warrington), C Sice (Whitehaven), J O'Donnell (Wigan).

England Knights (probable): C Riley (Warrington); K Dixon (London), J Turner (Hull), R Evans (Warrington), J Broughton (Salford); D Sarginson (London), L Gale (Bradford); S Taylor (Hull KR), D Houghton (Hull, capt), G Burgess (South Sydney), J Hughes (Wigan), M Lawrence (Huddersfield), M Cooper (Warrington).

Subs (from): T Burgess (Bradford), S Lunt (Huddersfield), C Clarkson (Leeds), B Jones-Bishop (Leeds), D Clark (Castleford), G Eden (Huddersfield).

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