5 Nov 2022
Ireland captain Johnston says bring on the Aussies
The Wolfhounds skipper scored four tries in the 55-32 defeat to Spain first up
By Josh Graham
Fearless Ireland captain Peter Johnston cannot wait to have a crack at Australia on Sunday after scoring four tries against Spain in the wheelchair Rugby League World Cup.
The Wolfhounds skipper bagged 24 points in the 55-32 defeat to Los Toros and is eager to test himself against the Wheelaroos, who lost 38-8 to England in their opening fixture on Thursday night.
Johnston is just happy to be facing the game’s best at this World Cup after Ireland stepped in to replace Norway - who pulled out In May after Covid disrupted their preparation - and is relishing another step up in level.
He said: “I think they are going to be quicker, harder-hitting and a lot more fun, I can’t wait for it.
“I’m happy both Australia and England came to watch our match [against Spain]. That shows we are not just the underdogs, they have to check and they have to watch out for us – we are coming!
“You have those little friendly rivalries, especially with England as a lot of those guys play in the same league as us, we know a lot of those guys.
“But with Australia, I haven’t played any of them so I’m just looking forward to the experience.”
Johnston admits his side will need to improve after they took their foot off the gas having registered the opening score against Spain and face a stern test against a more cohesive Australian outfit coached by Brett Clark.
He added: “How they play against one team is going to be different to how they play against another team. There’s stuff you can take away but we will be looking more at our match than their match.
“I think Australia are a more experienced team [than Spain]. The majority of them come from two teams, they have their State of Origins every year, so they know each other probably a lot more than the Spanish team, so we will have to watch out for that.”
Johnston was undoubtedly Ireland’s stand-out star from the double header at the Copper Box but Clark insists the Wheelaroos will treat every Ireland player with the same trepidation as they bid to get their campaign back on track with a win.
With Australia keen for the wheelchair game to gain traction Down Under, Clark is hoping for another competitive encounter after a pulsating contest with England caused quite the stir on social media.
He explained: “It’s game by game, it’s one of those things that if he’s [Johnston] scored four, he might score none against us or he might score eight who knows.
“Our job is to stop everyone regardless of if they are the team superstar or the best player, to us it doesn’t matter we just want to play our brand of football.
“As you saw against England, that is fairly aggressive and both teams rose to the occasion, so hopefully Ireland do the same because it doesn’t help us if one team is more dominant than the other and it doesn’t help the sport."
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