RLWC2021: How Ireland could line-up at the World Cup

James Bentley, Luke Keary and Micky McIlorum Ireland PA
(L-R) James Bentley, Luke Keary and Micky McIlorum could all feature for Ireland at the World Cup

We’re creating the strongest possible line-ups for every nation ahead of the World Cup, in collaboration with He Can Play For. This week, it’s Ireland!

In these weekly feature pieces, we are selecting our predicted side who can represent Ireland. This can include players born in that country, with heritage to the nation or even residency.

The first three were France, Jamaica and the Cook Islands. Now it is time for the Ireland

How Ireland could line-up at the World Cup

1. Josh Thewlis

Josh Thewlis Warrington Wolves SWpix
Photo: Will Palmer/SWpix

The 20-year-old full-back has been in tremendous form for Warrington in Super League this season. He has scored 11 tries in 28 first team appearances so far.

Thewlis has recently been called up to the England Knights 27-man squad. He has yet to make his senior international debut and is eligible to play for Ireland through his heritage.

2. Ethan Ryan

Ethan Ryan Hull KR Ireland

The 26-year-old winger has been part of the Ireland set-up since 2018. He has scored two tries in five games for the Wolfhounds.

Ryan has proven to be a prolific try scorer for Bradford and Hull KR. He has scored 94 tries in 116 career appearances so far.

3. Toby King

Toby King Warrington Wolves

King actually made his international debut for Ireland in 2016. He helped the Wolfhounds qualify for the 2017 World Cup. He was due to play in the World Cup but had to withdraw due to injury.

The 25-year-old was then selected for England Knights for their tour of Papua New Guinea in 2018. He has played three games for the Knights but could switch his allegiance back to Ireland for this year’s World Cup.

4. Sam Wood

Sam Wood Hull KR

Wood has been in fine form for Hull KR this season. The towering centre has recently signed a new deal with the Robins.

The 24-year-old was born and raised in Yorkshire but is of Irish background. He is eligible to represent England and Ireland.

5. Louis Senior

Innes Senior Huddersfield Giants

The 21-year-old has been a revelation for Huddersfield since he burst onto the scene in 2018. He has scored 14 tries in 24 games for the Giants so far.

Senior, and his brother Innes, are eligible to represent Ireland through their family heritage.

6. Luke Keary

Luke Keary Sydney Roosters PA

Undoubtedly the highest profile name in this team, Keary was due to represent his Irish roots at the 2017 World Cup, only to be prevented by a hip injury.

With the Sydney Roosters half-back at the age of 30, this could be his last chance to play international rugby at a World Cup.

7. Riley Dean

Riley Dean Warrington Wolves

Although born and raised in England, Dean qualifies to play for Ireland through his family heritage. He captained Ireland’s first-ever Under-16s team. He was named in Ireland’s squad for the World Cup qualifiers although didn’t make an appearance.

The 20-year-old has shone whenever he has been given the chance by Warrington coach Daryl Powell this year.

8. Liam Byrne

Liam Byrne Wigan Warriors

The 22-year-old hails from Salford but is of Irish heritage through his father’s side of the family, who come from Belfast. Byrne has won four caps for Ireland since making his international debut in 2018.

Byrne has become a regular starter at Wigan this season and has been one of their standout forwards in 2022.

IRELAND: Wigan prop Liam Byrne outlines 2022 goals with an eye on World Cup

9. Micky McIlorum

Micky McIlorum Catalans Dragons SWpix
Photo: Manuel Blondeau/SWpix

McIlorum has represented both Ireland and England on the international stage. He played for Ireland in the 2008 World Cup before switching allegiance to England for the tournament in 2013.

The 34-year-old hooker switched back to Ireland in 2017. He could play in his fourth World Cup this autumn, and his third for his beloved Ireland.

10. Brad Singleton

Brad Singleton Wigan Warriors

Singleton made his international debut for Ireland at the 2017 World Cup, playing in all three of their group games.

Singleton has made almost 250 career appearances for Leeds, Toronto Wolfpack, Wigan and Ireland.

11. Oliver Roberts

Oliver Roberts

Roberts has always talked passionately about how proud he is to pull on the green of Ireland. He has scored six tries in nine games for the Wolfhounds.

Roberts, who was part of the Ireland squad for the last World Cup, has made more than 100 career appearances.

12. James Bentley

James Bentley Leeds Rhinos SWpix
Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix

Bentley has won five caps for Ireland since making his international debut in 2018. He was born and raised in Leeds but is of Irish heritage through his mother’s side, who hail from Bangor in Northern Ireland.

GOALS: James Bentley on his World Cup dream with Ireland

13. George King

George King Ireland PA

King has played 10 test matches for Ireland since making his international bow in 2016, scoring five tries. He was a part of their last World Cup squad in 2017.

The 27-year-old prop has made almost 200 career appearances for Ireland, Warrington and Hull KR.

PROUD: George King hoping to play in second World Cup for Ireland

Bench

14. Liam Kay

Liam Kay Wakefield Trinity

Kay played in all three of Ireland’s group games at the 2017 World Cup, scoring three tries.

Kay is a winger by trade but has also been playing hooker for Wakefield in Super League so he provide a good utility option from the bench.

15. Frankie Halton

Frankie Halton Hull KR Ireland

Halton has been one of the buys of the season in Super League. He has been one of the standout forwards for Hull KR in 2022.

The Leyther has been a part of the Ireland set-up for a couple of years now and could be set to feature in his World Cup this autumn.

WOLFHOUND: Frankie Halton on fulfilling Super League dream

16. Joe Philbin

Joe Philbin Warrington Wolves Ireland

Philbin made his international debut for Ireland in 2016 and represented his roots in the 2017 World Cup.

The Warrington powerhouse switched allegiance to England in 2018, where he represented the Knights on their tour of Papua New Guinea.

Philbin got chance to represent his English and Irish roots in 2019 when he made his debut for the Great British and Irish Lions on their tour of the southern hemisphere.

GB: Joe Philbin proud to represent English and Irish heritage as he makes Great Britain debut

17. Ronan Michael

Ronan Michael York City Knights SWpix Ireland
Photo: Will Palmer/SWpix

In 2020, Balbriggan-born Michael became the first Ireland-born player to play in the Super League since Brian Carney in 2009.

Michael has enjoyed loan spells in the Championship with Whitehaven, Swinton and currently York. The 21-year-old forward has won five caps for his homeland so far.

MUST READ: “No-one knew what league was” – Irish prodigy Ronan Michael on spreading rugby league gospel in his hometown

How Ireland could line-up at World Cup

Ireland World Cup line-up

There are a number of players eligible in the NRL who we didn’t include in our predicted team – Morgan Harper, Josh Curran, Pat Carrigan, Dale Finucane, Harry Rushton and Jaimin Joliffe.

And in Super League there are a host of players with Irish heritage like Alex Mellor, Ben Currie, James McDonnell, Kyle Amor, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Robbie Mulhern.

CORCORAN: Ireland coach only wants players who are willing to play after World Cup

Thanks to He Can Play For for their collaboration, you can follow them on Twitter and Instagram.

About Drew Darbyshire 8035 Articles
Love Rugby League Deputy Editor. Joined the site ahead of the 2017 World Cup and been a full-time reporter since 2018.

5 Comments

  1. Field, Ryan, T King, Morgan Harper, L Senior, K Nikorima, Keary, Singleton, McIlorum, G King, James Hasson, Bentley, Philbin

    Ben Marschke, Rushton, Jaimin Joliffe, Byrne.

  2. J Field, J Thewlis, T King, Morgan Harper, L Senior, K Nikorima, L Keary, B Singleton, M McIlorum, G King, J Bentley, J Curran, J Philbin.

    Ben Marschke, H Rushton, L Byrne, Jaimin Joliffe.

  3. Does anyone else think that the way rugby league line ups are shown now is a bit odd and not very helpful to anyone who isn’t familiar?
    I was watching a match once and even the commentator said that the graphic wasn’t working properly but it was – it was just the same as everyone seems to do them now, but it was because it looks weird.

    I understand there are nuances to how players are positioned and in a sport like rugby, where the team spends a lot of the game in a fairly compact line, it is slightly redundant but why is the full back off centre? Why is the left winger so isolated it looks like it’s wrong? Why not put wingers and centres in a flat line, full back centrally behind them? Rather than have a weird diagonal line of players from the right wing, through two centres, stand off and scrum half. Then have the stand off and scrum half in the middle in front of the winger/centre line. Then place the forwards in front of them in their triangle formation. I don’t know why they swapped the orientation of the forwards round everywhere in rugby league a while back so that rather than having the hooker and props as the closest forwards on the lineup to the backs, it is now the loose forward, and the hooker is now positioned at the foremost point of the line up.
    Even if it may be argued that they ply in those positions most frequently (as the hooker often leads the attack and so is often furthest forward), it doesn’t help anyone understand the game when the line up, moving from back to front, goes from 6 and 7 to 13 and then 9 is at the top, rather than having 8, 9 and 10 as the next forward from 6 and 7. Some may say that the line up graphic reflects the forwards’ positions in a scrum but people do not base their understanding of a team game on a 15 second formation the players take up a handful of times a match.

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