Ireland aim to make statement at European Championship

Drew Darbyshire
George King and Richie Myler Ireland News Images

Photo: Mark Cosgrove/News Images

Ireland coach Ged Corcoran says they will head into the European Championship with a similar strength squad to the one that played in the World Cup.

The Wolfhounds took an impressive side in to last autumn’s World Cup, featuring 14 Super League players, four NRL players and five from the Championship.

But Ireland will also give experience to a sprinkling of their domestic talent this year, too. European Championship competition rules state that there must be a minimum of six homegrown players included in their 19-man squads for the games.

Corcoran, who became the first-ever Irish-born head coach of the Ireland national team last year, made it clear to players last year that he only wanted players who were committed to representing their country every year, not just in World Cups.

“That still stands,” Corcoran told Love Rugby League. “The players are still firm on that and believe in that and every player from that World Cup squad has put their hand up.

“We’ve got a very strong to pick from but obviously the squad that does get picked is a different question because the squad size and depth is completely different from what we got to pick from at the World Cup.

“Do we travel with 19 or 20? I’ll be picking up the strongest squad but what we get to travel is, is different to camp, with a 24-man squad. All players are on board with the qualifiers and up to France.

“I stayed in touch with a lot of the boys over the off-season and pre-season. We speak regularly but it is exciting, everyone is 100% ready to go. The challenge for everyone now is staying injury free, getting consistency and narrowing the squad down to what we can fit in.”

Ireland boss reacts to European Championship draw

The draw for this autumn’s European Championship was made last Wednesday in Brighouse.

England and France have already qualified for the 2025 World Cup. The two highest ranked teams outside of those will earn a spot at the World Cup in France.

Fixtures are set to be played across weekends from October 21. The final will be played across November 11-12.

Ireland are in a group A alongside England (Knights), Scotland and Serbia. France, Wales, Italy and Spain make up Group B.

“I’m really pleased with the draw,” Corcoran said. “I think we got the better group out of both groups.

“I’m pleased that we get to come up against a tier one nation like England and challenge another Celtic nation in Scotland and then go to Serbia.

“Serbia are a growing rugby league nation and a growing domestic competition. From today I will be doing my homework on what they are, who they are and the history of Serbia Rugby League. I think we owe them that respect to take them seriously.

“It gives some nations, including ourselves, to follow up a great World Cup. It gives us the opportunity to play against different teams and to play against England and teams we don’t usually play.”

Ged Corcoran enjoying life in club rugby

The County Offaly-born man linked up with Championship club York in the off-season to become Andrew Henderson’s assistant coach.

“It has been brilliant so far,” he added. “It has been a breath of fresh air and it was much needed.

“I loved my time at Sheffield and I can’t thank Mark enough but it was overdue. I need to recharge my batteries and freshen up.

“Working with someone like Andrew Henderson is great, his game IQ is very good. He challenges me and I challenge him so it has been a breath of fresh air. It’s a good group of players that warrants what the club is about.”

The Wolfhounds beat debutants Jamaica at the World Cup but fell short to New Zealand and Lebanon in the group stages.

READ NEXT: England unveil Rob Burrow inspired shirt for 2023 internationals