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Wales Rugby League coach Iestyn Harris has admitted that his side is ahead of schedule by qualifying for this year’s Gillette Four Nations.

Wales kick-off their international campaign this Saturday with a warm-up game against Ireland at The Gnoll in Neath (kick-off 6pm) before the tournament starts a week later when they take on England in Leigh.

Harris took over as Wales coach in 2009 and was an instant success. His youth development process has worked wonders with players like Rhys Williams, Lloyd White, Elliot Kear, Gil Dudson and Ben Flower shining and joining experienced men like Ian Watson, Lee Briers, Jordan James and Mark Lennon as Wales begins the first step on their toughest adventure yet.

Wales win play in the Gillette Four Nations thanks to winning the 2010 European Cup when they defied the odds to beat France 12-11 in Albi thanks to a long-range White penalty goal with four minutes to go.

“We’re probably three or four years ahead of schedule and didn’t think we’d progress this far so soon,” Harris said. “But you take opportunities that come your way and we’re looking forward to it all.”

“This is our chance to be in the Welsh sporting limelight. It’s been really difficult over the last few years playing in the second tier competitions to try and get people behind you.

“Last year, nobody expected us to go to France and win. This year we’ll be in the same situation. We’re the underdogs and there’s no pressure on us whatsoever.

“This is the first elite competition we’ve been in for a number of years. We’ve really got try and take the opportunity with both hands and try and perform and try and establish ourselves as an elite Rugby League nation. There’s a lot of hard work that’s been done in the past for us to get where we are now and there’s a lot more hard work to do – it all starts this Saturday against Ireland and we’re hoping for a big Welsh crowd to come along to The Gnoll and cheer us on.”

Harris will use as many of his squad of 24 as possible against Ireland in order to give them much-needed game time before the England encounter.

This means that Tyson Frizell, Matt Seamark and Peter Lupton are in line to win their first Welsh caps while most capped player Watson will extend his record to 29 appearances if, as expected, he takes to the field.

Wales Dragons:
Chris Beasley (Central Comets), Andy Bracek (Crusaders), Lee Briers (Warrington Wolves), Neil Budworth (MacKay Cutters), Ross Divorty (Featherstone Rovers), Gil Dudson (Crusaders),   Ben Flower (Crusaders), Tyson Frizell (Cronulla Sharks), Andrew Gay (South Wales Scorpions), Aled James (South Wales Scorpions), Jordan James (Crusaders), Danny Jones (Halifax), Craig Kopzcak (Bradford Bulls), Elliot Kear (Crusaders), Mark Lennon (Thirroul Butchers), Peter Lupton (Crusaders), Christiaan Roets (South Wales Scorpions), Matt Seamark (Wynnum Manly Seagulls), Gareth Thomas (Crusaders), Ian Watson (Swinton Lions), Ian Webster (Central Comets), Lloyd White (Crusaders), Lee Williams (Crusaders), Rhys Williams (Warrington Wolves).