• At least 8 Irish-based players in World Cup qualification squad
• At least 6 in the World Cup tournament or European Championship squads
• Policy provides ‘a clear pathway to international sport for domestic players’
Rugby League Ireland has announced a major new selection policy to increase the number of home-based players selected for Ireland’s international matches.
Under the new policy, a minimum of 8 players selected in senior international squads must have played club rugby in Ireland. That number is at least 6 when Ireland play in the World Cup or European Championship and are likely to face tier-one nations such as England or Australia.
The ground-breaking decision will take effect immediately and will apply for Ireland’s crucial World Cup qualifying matches against Spain and Russia next month. It means that more than 40% of the players in that 19-man squad will have played for rugby league clubs in Ireland.
The new policy represents a considerable change and is designed to support RLI’s efforts to develop and grow the sport of rugby league throughout Ireland, North and South, by improving and rewarding domestic players who now have a clear and defined pathway to international selection.
Currently Ireland play some development international matches with squads consisting entirely of Irish-based players, however, senior international fixtures such as World Cup and European Championship matches would often consist entirely of professional players based in England or the Southern Hemisphere.
Richard Egan, Director of Rugby League Ireland, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for players in the domestic competition to help drive Ireland’s World Cup challenge. The incentive to qualify for and play in the World Cup is massive and I’m confident our squad will be strong enough to achieve this.
“Rugby League is growing in popularity throughout Ireland — there are players coming into the game with considerable pedigree in other sports such as rugby union and GAA. The decision to ensure that all international squads consist of a greater number of players who come from the domestic competition acknowledges and supports this growth.
“The home-grown players in the international squads will improve as a result of training and playing with the overseas professionals and this will feed into the domestic game when they return to their clubs, providing encouragement for all those playing the game in Ireland and helping to build a sustainable domestic game.
“These players will still have to earn the right to wear the Ireland jersey but they now know there is a clear and defined pathway to international sport for them.”
Ireland will play development matches against Malta (October 8th) and Jamaica (October 16th) at the Carlisle Grounds in Bray, Co Wicklow, before the World Cup qualifiers against Spain (October 22nd) in Valencia, and Russia (October 29th) in Bray. The Rugby League World Cup takes place in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea next autumn.
Earlier this month, an Ireland team consisting entirely of Irish-based players defeated Italy 60-26 in Brescia.