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Wales aim for European glory

6th November 2015, 11:40

Wales aim for European glory

Three of the four nations can take the 2015 Rugby League European Championship crown tomorrow in another exceptionally close finish.

Three of the four nations can take the 2015 Rugby League European Championship crown tomorrow in another exceptionally close finish.

Last season Scotland won the tournament on the last day on points difference, but the Bravehearts are the only ones who are not in a position to retain their crown.

Wales, who travel to Bray to face Ireland (kick off 5pm) are the favourites to pick up their first crown since 2010 after two wins to date, but their opponents are in with a shout if they defeat their hosts by 15 points.

That will also be contingent upon the French, who face Scotland in Avignon (2pm kick off CET), who also have an outside chance of taking the crown.

For Wales the equation is simple, they have to only draw to lift the trophy.

Ireland need to win by 25 points more than France do over Scotland, if Les Tricolors are triumphant.

Wales coach John Kear has added Gloucestershire’s Jamie Murphy, Coventry’s James Guertjens and North Wales’ Rob Massam to the 17 who beat France 14-6 last week.

“We believe we can do it,” he said. “There's an air of confidence in the group and there are a lot of young men out there earning their stripes as well as experienced players.

“People like Craig Kopczak and Phil Joseph made massive impacts coming into the squad whilst the young lads are improving and developing.

“We've a half-back combination where one man is 22-years old and one is 21 in Ollie Olds and Courtney Davies. Plus we’ve Connor Farrer who’s 20 and Regan Grace who’s 18, both of whom came on as subs last week. They both played a good game last week, as did the whole team, so it really bodes well for the future.

“The football side have had a motto ‘together stronger’ and we’ve set out to do exactly the same. We've tried to have a culture where everyone is more important than one person so it's a case of ‘us’ rather than ‘I’.”

Wales’ defence has been on top all tournament and Kear believes this is one of the major aspects of the game that’s brought them two wins.

“It's the way forward for us and that was demonstrated with the both the Scotland and France games,” he said. “We conceded two tries against Scotland and one against France so that's a massive defensive effort.

“We've a job to do and that job is Saturday against Ireland. They had close matches against Scotland and France so they’re not going to be pushovers especially at home. But we're really pleased at where we're at right now and we’ve prepared well this week once again.”

Ireland coach Mark Aston, who recalls Leeds prop Rob Mulhern, is hoping that his side can go one better than last year, when they were the victims of a late Welsh try that denied them the title.

He said: “Here we are again in the same position as last year, needing to beat Wales by a big score to win the Championship.  

“We hope the Scots can do us a favour and keep the target low but at least we'll know what we have to do by the time we kick off.  

“Wales are a tougher proposition than last year and we'll need to be on our best form to pull it off but I'm confident the boys will dig in and go for it – it should be a great occasion.”

 

WALES SQUAD

Michael Channing (Castleford Tigers), Morgan Evans, James Geurtjens (Coventry Bears), Dalton Grant (Dewsbury Rams), Courtney Davies, Steve Parry, Jamie Murphy, Lewis Reece (Gloucestershire All Golds), Craig Kopczak (Huddersfield Giants), Elliot Kear, Rhys Williams (London Broncos), Joe Burke, Rob Massam, Christiaan Roets (North Wales Crusaders), Connor Farrer (South Wales Scorpions), Ollie Olds (Souths Logan Magpies, Australia), Regan Grace (St Helens), Anthony Walker (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats), Phil Joseph (Widnes Vikings), Rhodri Lloyd (Wigan Warriors)

IRELAND SQUAD

Gareth Gill (Ballynahinch Rabbitohs), Elliot Cosgrove (Batley Bulldogs), Oliver Roberts (Bradford Bulls), Haydn Peacock (Carcassonne), Liam Finn (Castleford Tigers), Callum Mulkeen, Graham O'Keeffe (Gloucester All Golds), Luke Ambler, Ben Johnston (Halifax RLFC), Scott Grix (Huddersfield Giants),  Rob Mulhern (Leeds Rhinos), Bob Beswick (Leigh Centurions), Joe Keyes (London Broncos), Casey Dunne (Longhorns RL), Will Hope (Oldham RLFC),  Clark McAllister (Portadown Pumas), Brad Hargreaves, Danny Bridge, Matty Hadden (Rochdale Hornets)

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France coach Richard Agar is hoping that his men will have a say in the ultimate destination of the trophy after a mixed autumn.

“It’s come down to the closest of finishes again,” he said. “We’re happy to be a position to win the competition, should the result go right for us in Ireland.”

Agar is without skipper Théo Fages along with Antoni Maria and Clément Boyer; Florent Rouanet, Mourad Kriouache and Avignon local Mickael Goudemand their replacements.

“We’ve had a really good week’s preparation and there is some energy about the group,” Agar added. “As always, we are really looking forward to playing in front of our own fans.”

Second rower Dale Ferguson will captain Scotland for the first time in the absence of injured Danny Brough.

The Bravehearts will field their youngest ever team but head coach Steve McCormack says it must be seen as a positive, with uncapped second rower Gavin Grant, an Aberdonian who plays for Coventry Bears, called up.

“This is all about the long-term good for Scotland Rugby League," said McCormack. “Ten of the 18 players have come through our pathway. We're developing these players for the future.”

“This tournament was crying out for us to give opportunities to young lads as it's the only year we can do it - we can't do it against England, Australia and New Zealand in the Four Nations next year or in the 2017 World Cup.

“We made a conscious decision to increase our player pool and the young players have really stepped up.”

Scotland have a poor recent record against France having lost their all five meetings under McCormack.

 

FRANCE SQUAD

Jean Philippe Baille (Bradford Bulls), Gadwin Springer (Castleford Tigers), Jason Baitieri, Julian Bousquet, Morgan Escare, Tony Gigot (Catalans Dragons), John Boudebza, Kevin Larroyer (Hull KR), Florent Rouanet (FC Lézignan XIII), William Barthau (London Broncos), Remy Marginet, Ugo Perez, Stanislas Robin, Jordan Sigismeau (St. Esteve XIII Catalan/ Dragons Catalans), Olivier Arnaud, Mickael Goudemand (SO Avignon XIII), Mourad Kriouache (Toulouse Olympique), Mickael Simon (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats), Benjamin Jullien (Warrington Wolves)

SCOTLAND SQUAD

Danny Addy (Bradford Bulls), Sam Brookes (Whitehaven), Harvey Burnett (unattached), Lewis Clarke (Edinburgh Eagles), Sonny Esslemont (Hull KR), Dale Ferguson (Bradford Bulls), Gavin Grant (Coventry Bears), Richard Harris (Warrington Wolves), Liam Hood (Salford Red Devils), Finlay Hutchison (Edinburgh Eagles), Ben Kavanagh (Widnes Vikings), Corbyn Kilday (Central Queensland Capras), Joe McClean (Gloucs All Golds), Scott Plumridge (Edinburgh Eagles), David Scott (Doncaster), Oscar Thomas (London Broncos), Shane Toal (Barrow), Alex Walker (London Broncos)