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Ireland playmaker Liam Finn.

He helped mastermind Ireland's third consecutive World Cup qualification, but Liam Finn's most pressing concern is holding his own place in Wakefield Trinity's starting side ahead of a massive 2017 season. 

The Ireland captain's long season starts on Boxing Day when Wakefield take on Leeds Rhinos in a traditional 'friendly' clash at Headingly, with competition for starting places at an all-time high. 

The signings of former Raiders half Sam Williams and of Mitch Allgood from Hull KR, and the re-signing of David Fifita, have Finn excited for the 2017 season and Wakefield are expecting over 10,000 fans for their first outing on December 26.

But there is no question the arrival of Williams has put Finn and his halves partner Jacob Miller on notice. 

"We've got a decent squad together, we've signed a few players to add to the team who made super 8s last year, so hopefully we can improve on that," Finn told

"I'm trying to get a place in the team at Wakefield, obviously with the signing of Sam (Williams) and we have Jacob Miller, so three don't go into two. So that little bit of extra competition at our club side is helping me to forget about the World Cup a little bit, because it is still a long, long way away.

"Sam has come in and we are really excited to have him, he's brought a fair bit to the table. Milky (Miller) was pretty much player of the year last year. He's recovering from a shoulder injury and looking forward to getting back into full-time training and then I'm trying to get in there and can play a bit of hooker as well. 

"I've played a fair bit of hooker before, just not for a few seasons, but we'll see what happens." 

The competition for places is driving the 33-year-old ahead of a long campaign that will culminate in a third consecutive World Cup appearance.

Ireland qualified for the 2017 World Cup by defeating Spain 46-6 in Valencia, before comprehensively accounting for Russia 70-16 on home soil. 

"We did alright, our opposition weren't the greatest with all due respect," Finn said.

"They are real developing nations who are doing a good job in their own right, but we should have won comfortably and we did. 

"The Spanish game was on an artificial pitch in Valencia and it was a little different to what we are used to. Russia were a better quality side than Spain and a lot more physical, but we were much better prepared for that game. They had beaten Spain the week before and I think the team was more prepared and we put on a really good performance against them. 

"They were a fully domestic Russian squad, didn't speak a word of English, which is very different to what we are used to. Even the French side most of them speak English because they play a lot in the Super League."

For Finn and his Irish teammates, the unique rugby league experiences will continue in 2017 with scheduled World Cup matches in Cairns, PNG and Perth. 

"The boys are really excited about the PNG trip. Add it to the list of unique experiences for us I guess," he laughed.

"It will be interesting travelling around and how we handle that as a group. The last World Cup in Australia we were mainly based in Parramatta and then we nipped up to Gold Coast and didn't do a great deal of travel."

Ireland's World Cup campaign should see the return of some veterans and a few familiar NRL names, but juggling the two is often the hardest part.

"If we stay fit through this season we'll have Scott Grix, Bob Beswick, hopefully we'll get Rory Kostjaysn to play again," Finn said.

"I think he's been keen to play the last few years, but sometimes it isn't feasible to get him over here. James Hasson has come over on holiday to visit his family and played in the Spain game.

"Hopefully we'll bring enough in for us to be able to compete but not too many that just come and go for a World Cup. 

"That is the struggle every time there is a World Cup. It is a difficult one for our coaches. We don't want to get embarrassed in the game. We want to be competing and putting ourselves in the spotlight by doing well but you don't want to upset the lads that have been playing in the three years in between and they might not come back again."

It's a familiar challenge for second tier nations competing in big international tournaments. 

"That's the toughest part for those blokes, some of the domestic blokes don't step foot out of Ireland so they don't get exposed to rugby league other than the local competition," Finn continued.

"So when we play the European Cup against teams like Scotland and Wales, they are finding their feet in that level. 

"When you take them up another level in a World Cup – like when we played Australia, England and Fiji [in 2013], it is quite a jump in skill level. It is tough to juggle."

There are no easy answers and no quick fix, but Finn is intrigued by the approach of the newly formed Toronto Wolfpack who are hoping to gain promotion into the UK Super League. 

It is hoped the flow-on effect will lift the game in Canada with a top to bottom feeder system put in place to encourage development at grassroots level. 

The catch – of course – is finding someone to back a similar model in Ireland.

"At the moment, players have to come over here and try to progress into Championship 1, which is part-time," he said. 

"It's a big ask. A big example would be Casey Dunn who does a lot of work over there. He coaches the under-16s and -19s and does a great job. He fights the battle for rugby league in Ireland but he can't come over and play any higher level rugby league because his job is too good in Ireland. 

"He does really well as a plumber and with his business in Ireland and he can't drop that to come to England and try to make it through the grades.

"It just isn't feasible. Ideally someone with money would try to start a team over there and they can start building a proper pathway through Championship One and the Championship."

But all that is a long, long way away. For now, Finn wants to survive the pre-season and secure a starting position for his club side.

That starts on Boxing Day against Leeds. 

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