Ireland will be playing with a smile on their faces in the World Cup, according to coach Mark Aston.
The Irish are among the 500/1 rank outsiders but Aston is confident they can make their mark in their group games against Italy, Papua New Guinea and Wales.
Sunday's game against the Azzurri will be 12 months to the day since Ireland's last match, a 70-16 victory over Russia in Bray that secured them a trip to Australia, but Aston says his team are happy to play the cards they are dealt.
"It's not a level playing field," he said. "Ireland has got no money so we can't do anything, it's tough. When we played in the 2013 World Cup we went into camp nine days before the first game because that's when you get paid from. England had a week's high altitude training in South Africa.
"That's part of the motivation for us. It keeps our feet on the ground and enables us to say look, nobody gives us a chance of being successful because they make it difficult for us. We get strength from that. Nobody is going to get rich playing for Ireland. They know that from minute one. That makes us stronger as a group. They're playing for pride and the passion we have all put into this."
Ireland, who faced daunting group games against England, Fiji and Australia in the last World Cup, have been bolstered by the additions of Grand-Final winner Brad Singleton and Londoner Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook.
Aston continued: "This is not a chore, it's enjoyable and why wouldn't it be? At our first meeting I told them I wasn't going to put rules in places. They're professional international rugby league players and the senior players set the discipline of the group.
"Never have I had a problem with discipline, players have been respectful. It's about the passion and the opportunity to bond. We're fortunate that now people sing and dance about being involved with Ireland. I've been with Ireland for five or six years now and year by year it's getting better. The players are putting their hand up."
Ireland's big test will come when they take on Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby but first up for Aston's men are the unknown quantity of Italy. "I don't know a lot about them but they will be capable," Aston said. "We want to get to the quarter-finals, that's where we're aiming."
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved