Ireland mean serious business ahead of this year’s World Cup and are hoping to silence a few critics, according to hooker Dec O’Donnell.
The majority of the Wolfhounds squad will be made up of heritage players, but O’Donnell insists that doesn’t matter anymore. All the players are Irish, whether that is being born on the island or born elsewhere but with Irish heritage.
“One thing we’ve learned from the most recent camp is that there are no heritage and domestic players now,” O’Donnell told Love Rugby League. “That has been scrapped.
“As soon as you step through the door you are Irish. It doesn’t matter if you were born in Wigan, Wakefield or Warrington, you’re Irish and that’s it.
“When you go back to your clubs some people could say to you ‘oh, you’re not Irish’ but that’s just ignorance. How can you say I’m not Irish? It’s frustrating and it’s a bit ignorant because I am Irish.
“Maybe come the World Cup we can shut a few people up. We are serious about Ireland and we are serious about growing the game in Ireland. It is mad to think of what we could actually do for rugby league in Ireland.”
Ireland targeting quarter-finals of World Cup
The Wolfhounds won two of their three games at the last World Cup – but didn’t make it out of the group stage due to the formatting of the pools.
Ireland are aiming to go one better this year, even reaching the quarter-finals of the tournament.
They have been drawn in a group alongside New Zealand, Lebanon and Jamaica.
“We want to get to the quarter-finals,” O’Donnell said. “People will probably read this and say we’ve got no chance but all I will say is let’s wait and see.”
New head coach Ged Corcoran says he only wants to select players who are committed to playing for Ireland year in, year out, rather than just wanting to play in World Cups.
“I think that’s the big thing for Rugby League Ireland now,” O’Donnell acknowledged.
“I think they are moving away from the ‘oh World Cup is here, I want to put my hand up’. They want to have lads who are really proud of their Irish heritage and want to be there.
“They want players to add to not only the team in the World Cup, but add to rugby league as a whole in Ireland.”