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Last Updated: Friday, 3 November 2006, 13:32 GMT
Irish out to seal World Cup spot
Brian McDermott
McDermott has been left out of the Irish squad for the qualifier
Ireland can virtually guarantee their place in the 2008 World Cup finals when they meet Lebanon in Sunday's qualifier at Dublin's Tolka Park.

The Irish achieved a record 50-12 win over Russia in Moscow a fortnight ago and are clear favourites to clinch a place in the main draw in Australia.

"We're 50% of the way there," said coach Andy Kelly.

"I would think one more win would guarantee our passage to the World Cup finals - but it will be a test."

"I've seen a lot of good things in the Lebanon side," he added.

Kelly watched his side's next opponents beat Russia 22-8 at the New River Stadium in London last Saturday and knows how dangerous it would be to under-estimate the Lebanese, who qualified for the 2000 World Cup and gave Wales a scare before going down 24-22 in Llanelli.

"They are very well organised, a quick and physically strong side," he said.

"Across the board, they are not the biggest side, but their organisation comes from the fact that so many of them are Australian-based.

"Fourteen of the squad are with NRL or NRL-related clubs."

Kelly has rung the changes, with veteran prop Barrie McDermott, who made a record-extending 13th appearance in Ireland's win in Moscow, sitting out Sunday's match, along with Liam Harrison, David Bates and Martin McLoughlin.

Leigh full-back Scott Grix and Widnes winger Damien Blanch will make their debuts while former Hull forward Paul McNicholas, Salford prop Gareth Haggerty and Steve Nolan, Eric Roberts and Billy Treacy from Ireland's domestic competition also come into the reckoning.

Kelly will name his team following Saturday's final training session in Dublin.

Ireland squad: Scott Grix (Leigh), Damien Blanch (Widnes), Stuart Littler (Salford), Tony Stewart (Leigh), Gavin Dodd (Widnes), Chris Bridge (Warrington), Bob Beswick (Widnes), Ryan Tandy (Widnes), Phil Cantillon (Rochdale), Paul McNicholas (Hull), Mick Cassidy (Widnes), Ged Corcoran (Oldham), Dave Allen (Widnes), Steve Gibbons (Carlow Crusaders), Gareth Haggerty (Salford), Alan Robinson (Coventry Bears), Steve Nolan (Dublin City Exciles), Wayne Kerr (Carlow Crusaders), Eric Roberts (Kildare Dragons), Billy Treacy (Treaty City Titans).

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