Wolfhounds hungry for victory in Euro opener

Rugby League: Ireland will be cast in the familiar role of underdogs as they launch their European Championship campaign against France in Dublin today, but this time they are not without hope.

The Wolfhounds were pitted against big guns Australia, England and Fiji in the 2013 World Cup and, unsurprisingly, lost all three group matches.

“We learned a lot from that,” Ireland coach Mark Aston said. “When you play against Australia and England, there is always that little bit of doubt about whether we’d be able to compete. But we will go into every game this year thinking we can win, and that’s important.”

The matches against France, Scotland and Wales should provide a more level playing field and, with a place in the 2016 Four Nations Series as well as automatic qualification for the 2017 World Cup at stake, there is no shortage of incentive.

The Irish secured home advantage for two of their matches from the open draw and Scotland will be the visitors to Dublin’s Tallaght Stadium next Saturday, before Aston’s men complete their tournament against Wales in Wrexham on Sunday, November 2.

Without most of the big names from the World Cup, including skipper Liam Finn, who has joined the backroom staff after succumbing to injury, Aston has been forced to bolster his squad with players from Ireland’s fledgling amateur domestic league.

Ireland (from): M Hadden (Antrim), C Dunne (Athboy), Mikey Russell (Barnhall), S Hesketh (Batley), W Kelly (Belfast Met Scholars), H Peacock (Carcassonne), J Murphy (Dewsbury), L Ambler, C Casey, B Johnston (all Halifax), E Cosgrove (Keighley), R Mulhern (Leeds), B Beswick (capt), M Platt (both Leigh), J Toole (North Sydney), C Mulkeen (Oxford), S McDonnell (St Helens), G O’Keeffe (Treaty City), W Hope (unattached), B Hargreaves (Wigan St Patricks).

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