Celtic rivals begin build-up
Scotland and Ireland begin their preparations for the 2013 World Cup this weekend when they kick off the Alitalia European Cup.
The Celtic rivals meet at Meggetland, Edinburgh, on Sunday afternoon with both nations using the tournament as a key indicator in their build-up to the World Cup which is almost exactly a year away. Both teams also play England Knights at home.
"This now biennial tournament is an integral part of the RLEF's calendar and promises to extend the thrills of the 2010 competition, which served up two one-point margins of victory and excitement until the final whistle," said new Rugby League European Federation chairman Maurice Watkins.
"It is also heartening to see the international game expand into new areas with Edinburgh and Belfast staging matches.
"The support from those cities and hosting clubs is truly appreciated as rugby league continues to raise its visibility and profile at a time when international competition is very much on the agenda."
Scotland coach Dave Rotherham has had to make a late change to his team, with Lee Paterson brought in to replace veteran John Duffy, whose back injury forced him to hang his boots up this week.
There is a core of experience running through the Scotland ranks, most notably through the return of ex-Catalan Dragons hooker Ben Fisher, Huddersfield back rower Dale Ferguson and former Castleford prop Paul Jackson, who will play for Whitehaven next year.
"We've got a mixture of experience and youth in the squad but they are all so passionate about representing Scotland," said Rotheram.
Ireland coach Mark Aston, fresh from guiding Sheffield Eagles to the Championship title, had a difficult first season in charge of the national team but is boosted by the availability of Warrington's Challenge Cup winner Tyrone McCarthy.
"We need to improve on what we did earlier on in the year against England Knights," Aston said.
"It's a different squad and a new squad so we are getting to know each other and getting some of the core values instilled in the players leading up to the World Cup."
Scotland (from): P Jackson, J Walker (both Castleford), B Fisher (Catalan Dragons), C Borthwick, C Cockburn, T Murray, D Vernon (all Edinburgh Eagles), J Barlow, S Barlow (both Halifax), D Ferguson, A Walker (both Huddersfield), D Scott (Hull KR), L Hood (Leeds), L Paterson (Mackay Cutters), A Henderson, M Stringer, A Szostak (all Sheffield Eagles), A Hurst (Swinton), S Lyon-Fraser (Wigan), B Carter (Workington).
Ireland (from): M Hadden (Antrim), W Kerr (Country Cowboys), E Cosgrove (Dewsbury), T McKeown (Dublin City Exiles), L Finn (Featherstone), L Ambler, C Casey, S Hesketh (all Halifax), J Hinchcliffe, S Wellens (both Ireland Students), S Littler, G McNally (both Leigh), J Toole (Mounties), T Bergin, C Roche (both Sheffield Eagles), A McCloskey (Treaty City), J Mendeika, T McCarthy (both Warrington), C Sice (Whitehaven), J O'Donnell (Wigan).
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