Mark Aston has won all types of accolades as both a player and a head coach. But on the 16th of October he will take on one of his biggest challenges yet when he leads Ireland into battle with Scotland in Glasgow. The man who played a pivotal role in the resurrection of the Sheffield Eagles after their failed merger with Huddersfield knows the task ahead of him will be a tough one.
“We want to get off to a good start and to perform better than last year. It's tough though when you have injuries with players like Simon and Scott Grix having to have operations.” The last time the Wolfhounds took on the Scots the fell apart after half time in Dublin and Aston is keen to improve on that result. “It is important that we improve on last year as we are building towards the World Cup in 2013 and we want to build each year starting with 2011 then 2012 so we will be ready for 2013."
Aston surprised many when he selected thirteen uncapped players in his 30 man squad for the upcoming four test series. When discussing the subject the Eagles boss was quick to outline what he expects from his players. “I spoke to the players about the games and outlined that we want to see them improving and proving that they want to play for Ireland. They have to be proud to play for their country.”
His plans for the world cup are clear and he is looking for young players to build towards the tournament. “What a great opportunity it is. We have a great group with Australia, England and Fiji. It’s a tough group but a fantastic chance to put ourselves on the world stage. The top players want to play on the biggest stage and this is their chance to do it. We are building year on year towards the World Cup so we will be looking to improve in 2011 and 2012 an ultimately be in form in 2013 and then again in 2017.”
Ultimately the 1998 Lance Todd Trophy winner knows what he needs to do to return Ireland to the glory of 2008 when they reached the elimination play off against Fiji against all odds. “It is important that we get the squad together and training with each other so we can prepare for the challenges ahead. It's vital too that we enjoy ourselves because after all that’s what we play this great game of rugby league for.”
Aston will hope that his side can boost the recently released world rankings as they face Scotland, Wales and France this autumn.
Ireland Wolfhounds Squad:
Liam Harrison (Barrow Raiders), George Flanagan (Batley Bulldogs), Damien Blanch (Catalan Dragons), Elliott Cosgrove (Dewsbury Rams), Liam Finn (Featherstone Rovers), Ryan Fieldhouse, James Haley, Paul Handforth, Bob Beswick (Halifax RLFC), Jamie O’Callaghan, Jason Golden (Harlequins RL), Gregg McNally (Huddersfield Giants), Luke Ambler, Kyle Amor, Callum Casey (Leeds Rhinos), Joe Taylor (North Dublin Eagles), Paddy Boyle (Oxford RL), Nathan Ashe, Aaron McCloskey, Ian Cross (St Helens), Sean Gleeson, Ryan Boyle (Salford City Reds), Vinny Finnigan, Tim Bergin (Sheffield Eagles), Ged Corcoran (Toulouse), Lemeki Vaipulu (Treaty City Titans), Stewart Howarth (Wakfield Trinity Wildcats), Tyrone McCarthy (Warrington Wolves), Kurt Hegarty, Simon Finnegan (Widnes Vikings)
Scotland Squad: Josh Barlow, Sam Barlow (Halifax), Ben Blackmore, Daryl Clark, Paul Jackson (Castleford), Brad Massey (Coventry Bears), Nick Broere, Callum Cockburn, Paddy Coupar, Giles Lomax (Edinburgh Eages), Neil Lowe (Hunslet), Crawford Matthews, Chad McGlane (Hull FC), David Scott (Hull KR), John Duffy (Leigh), Dave Arnot (London Skolars), Jordan Rice, Mike Stewart (Scotland Students), Andrew Henderson, Jack Howieson, Mich Stringer, Alex Szostak (Sheffield Eages), Alex Hurst, Lee Paterson (Swinton), Josh Griffin, Gareth Moore (Wakefield), Brett Carter (Workington Town), Jack Stearman (York Knights)