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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 November 2007, 15:34 GMT
Ireland to step up talent search
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Head coach Andy Kelly says Ireland will scour Super League and the NRL in an attempt to boost their numbers ahead of the 2008 World Cup in Australia.

The Irish booked their place at the 10-team tournament thanks to a 16-16 draw with Lebanon in Dewsbury.

"We will look at everything of value. There will be no corner-cutting, we'll make sure the side we have over there is very competitive," said Kelly.

Ireland launch their World Cup campaign against Tonga on Monday, 27 October.

Kelly, who was assistant to Steve O'Neill when Ireland reached the quarter-finals of the last World Cup in 2000, has steered a largely part-time squad to the big table in Australia.

I'll also make sure that some of the players who have done a good job for us over the last seven years are rewarded for their efforts and loyalty

Andy Kelly

Of the 17 players involved in Friday's clash with Lebanon, only captain Stuart Littler, Wigan forwards Eamon O'Carroll and Paul Prescott and Warrington stand-off Chris Bridge were playing in Super League this year.

Kelly will be able to call on Salford duo Karl Fitzpatrick and Malcolm Alker next year, but he is keen to widen the net.

"Over the next 12 months we'll uncover and re-visit some of the players that we've had in the past," he said.

"But I'll also make sure that some of the players who have done a good job for us over the last seven years are rewarded for their efforts and loyalty."

Ireland's other Group C opponents could yet be Lebanon, with whom they have fought out two draws over the last 12 months.

606: DEBATE

The Lebanese cancelled their return flight to Sydney following their failure to qualify automatically and were today busy re-arranging their plans to take part in the repechage.

With only one full-time player in their squad, team manager Anthony Elias admits it may be a struggle to put out a full-strength team against Wales or Scotland in next Friday's semi-final eliminator at Widnes.

"It's a matter of making phone calls to their bosses," he said. "We've done this on a voluntary basis for nine years now.

"Last year we had to fork out $2,500 each to make the trip. These boys have made big sacrifices and to get beat on a countback is very tough."

The International Federation should really come down hard on the clubs that don't release players

Anthony Elias
Lebanon team manager

Meanwhile, Lebanon are to protest to this week's International Federation meeting in Leeds over the refusal of Wests Tigers to release Robbie Farah and Jarrod Saffy for their qualifying campaign.

"With Robbie in that team, Ireland wouldn't have come near us because of his experience around the ruck," said Elias.

"We were told he was coming and two days before we were supposed to get our tickets we were told we couldn't have him. It's not right.

"The International Federation should really come down hard on the clubs that don't release players.

"We're trying to expand the game and it would have been nice to have those players available."

SEE ALSO
Ireland draw seals World Cup spot
02 Nov 07 |  Rugby League


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