2 Nov 2022
Ireland's wheelchair side ready to capitalise on late call-up
Ireland open the wheelchair Rugby League World Cup in the very first game against Spain
By Milly McEvoy
Despite being a late call-up for the wheelchair Rugby League World Cup, Ireland were ready and waiting, according to head coach Damian McCabe.
Ireland replaced Norway, who had to pull out after Covid impeded their preparation, in Group B and make their return to the tournament for the first time since 2013 when they finished sixth.
The Wolfhounds kick off the whole competition against Spain tomorrow at the Copper Box Arena before facing Australia and hosts England, with McCabe hoping the sport’s increased profile will help grow the game on the Emerald Isle.
“We decided to prepare anyway. In the occasion a team might fall out, we wanted to be the next ones in,” he explained.
“We've been preparing anyway because we needed to develop as a team to even be entering the competition.
“When the call came, we were ready, it wasn't a case of getting ready, it was a case of continuing the process of being ready.
“It is very important to be involved because it gives us a humongous launchpad that only this competition will give us.
“Now that we've got some Irish resident players in the team, they've been telling their friends and family and every time they're going to be tuning in, now Irish eyeballs in Ireland will be seeing the sport.
“I know when people watch this sport, they like it. I've never met anyone who's watched it and didn't like it, so I'm very confident people will want to start playing this game and we can grow it in Ireland.”
Join us live in London with Adam Hills and the captains and coaches of all the nations competing in this year’s RLWC2021 Wheelchair tournament.#RLWC2021 | @adamhillscomedy
— Rugby League World Cup 2021 (@RLWC2021) November 1, 2022
Ireland sit above Australia and Spain in the world rankings but accept they will be seen as the underdogs having only recently joined the line-up.
However, captain Peter Johnston Jr insisted that Ireland would be no pushovers.
He said: “I obviously feel bad for Norway, hopefully, they'll be able to make it to the next World Cup.
“I'm so privileged to be able to get to this World Cup, and I can't wait for it. It's going to be exciting for all the Ireland players.
“We're all really looking forward to it and we realise that this is an opportunity for us to start showing what we can do.
We've got expectations, we're not here to get kicked about.
“But we're looking forward to this and it's going to be great and our expectations is to soak it all in.
“We're going to enjoy this, it doesn't matter how it goes but we were going to struggle with the group stage from Australia and England, and obviously Spain as well.
“They're all possibly tough opponents but we'll give it our all.”
The Rugby League World Cup promises to be the biggest, best and most inclusive event in the sport’s 127-year history with men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams competing in 61 games across 21 venues throughout England. Tickets are available via rlwc2021.com/tickets