The Irish squad:
Terry O'Connor (captain)
|Group 4 news
Making their first-ever World Cup appearance, Ireland will hope to build on their position of finalists in the Emerging Nations Cup back in '95. Under the captaincy of tearaway Wigan prop Terry O'Connor - in outstanding form this season - Ireland will fear no team and will be relishing the opportunity of meeting either Australia or England in the quarter-finals.
Skipper O'Connor will have few fears of gaining control in midfield against any opposition as he has a pack of forwards containing St Helens skipper Chris Joynt, as well as rugged Wigan and Leeds props Neil Cowie and Barry McDermott. They are further strengthened by inclusion of the former Brisbane Broncos forward and Warrington-bound Kevin Campion.
Behind the scrum, where manager Ralph Rimmer has taken full advantage of the parental/grandparent qualification rulings, the emerald isle possesses a wealth of individual talent. St Helens schemer Tommy Martyn is just the player to get the best out of speedy wings Brian Carney and Mark Forster. The pedigree of former Gaelic footballer Carney can be seen in his signing to play for Wigan next season. Veteran Warrington wing Forster is able to call upon 20 years' experience in the top flight. Forster is set to celebrate his 36th birthday on the day of the Lincoln World Cup final on 25 November and he is hopeful of crowning his special day with a visit to Old Trafford, venue for the final showdown.
Samoa, Scotland and the Maoris will provide tough opposition and coach Steve O'Neill will need to have his tough pack in tip-top shape to counteract the physical strengths and aggression of the Samoan and Maori forwards. If the Irish forwards can gain the upper hand, O'Neill certainly has the speed and talent in the backs to clinch a last eight placing and even contemplate reaching the semi-finals.