Ireland head coach Mark Aston has named his 19 man squad to play Fiji at Spotland Stadium on Monday (20:00)
James Mendeika feels that his Ireland side has got what it takes to reach the semi-finals of Rugby League World Cup 2013 and go one better than their last World Cup outing, starting against Fiji at Spotland, Rochdale, on Monday (8.00pm).
Drawn in a group with Fiji, England and Australia, the centre has highlighted the importance of a strong start to the tournament and believes that Irelands’ preparations – they were one of four nations to skip a warm-up match – have been more than beneficial.
“I think we all know what Fiji bring,” said Mendeika. “They will bring athletes, but they have also got a lot of skill in their backline. I feel that we have also got a lot of skill, brawn and speed though.
“The first game is always vital but being in a group with England and Australia where we play them after Fiji does make the first game more important.
“The Fiji game is obviously the priority, but we have been preparing our setup in training for our game in general, so we will be in a better position when the Australia and England games come around.
“But if the result doesn’t go our way, we won’t be counting ourselves out, we will still have a chance. We are all feeling really confident and positive.”
“If anything, we have probably benefitted from not playing last week. It has allowed our training to be more intense. We have had double sessions and we have been able to focus on other things.
“If we had played a game then you have got to prepare for that game and then recover afterwards. This way we have been able to focus solely on the World Cup games.”
After a number of upsets in the warm-up matches Mendeika, who was leading try scorer at Swinton Lions having spent most of last season on loan at Leigh Sports Village, does not buy into the importance of the games, and would rather hope for Irish success at the World Cup.
“I am not sure winning a warm-up game means much to the smaller teams,” said Mendeika. “But I think it acts as a reminder to the bigger nations that we’re all going to be competitive.
“I think it makes things more exciting for the fans, definitely. It reminds them that there aren’t going to be any easy wins and that every game will be competitive.
“There have been a lot of changes within the squad and the staff since 2008 but having seen how we did in 2008 we are looking to match that at least, if not go one better.
“We got to a certain point five years ago so there is no reason why we can’t do it again.”
Tickets for the RLWC2013 fixture Fiji v Ireland at Spotland Stadium, Rochdale on Monday October 27 (8.00pm) cost from just £10 for adults and £5 concessions and are in limited supply. To purchase your ticket, buy now at www.rlwc2013.com/tickets or call the 24-hour Ticket Hotline on 0844 847 2013.
Ireland team for Fiji match