Ireland bring in Warrington Wolves duo Joe Philbin and debutant Toby King – who will play alongside brother George – for their Pool B decider at the Carlisle Grounds in Bray, against Russia on Saturday (kick off 5pm)
The pair replace Haydn Peacock and Parramatta prop James Hasson, who paid his own way over to appear in the win in Valencia last week but has had to return home for pre-existing commitments.
The winners will qualify for the 2017 competition to play in Group C alongside co-hosts Papua New Guinea, with the losers headed for the final qualifying play-off in Leigh next Friday (4 November).
Ireland head coach Mark Aston commented: “This is another big challenge against Russia who had an impressive win against Spain. They’re a big and physical outfit and we need to keep our standards high as I thought against Spain we let them slip. We’ll be looking for high completion and playing with plenty of tempo, that holds the key to our success.”
Aston added: “The players are really looking forward to getting the job done this weekend at home in front of our passionate fans. Then we can start planning for the 2017 World Cup.”
Russia, who had a good win over the Spanish in Moscow a fortnight ago, name the same 19 for this encounter as they look to qualify for their first World Cup since 2000. Their Embassy in Ireland has distributed over 500 tickets to the local Russian community in and around Dublin and are looking for enthusiastic backing.
Head coach Denis Korolev noted: “We are ready to face group leaders Ireland this weekend. We understand how difficult this match is going to be but at the same time it is very significant for us. We have ironed out a lot of the mistakes we made against Spain and we are ready to fight for the victory.”
Before the game, over 20 nations will gather in Bray at the RLEF annual congress where RL International Federation chief executive David Collier will also be present.
IRELAND 19-MAN SQUAD
Gareth Gill (Ballynahinch Rabbitohs), Chris Hall (Belfast Met Scholars), Joe Keyes (Bradford Bulls), James Kelly, Mikey Russell (Dublin City Exiles), Alan McMahon (Galway Tribesmen), Luke Ambler (Halifax), Oliver Roberts (Huddersfield Giants), Casey Dunne (Longhorns RL), Will Hope (Oldham Roughyeds), Matty Hadden (Rochdale Hornets), Shannon McDonnell (St Helens), Stuart Littler (Swinton), Liam Finn, Scott Grix (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats), George King, Toby King, Joe Philbin, (Warrington Wolves), Dave Allen (Whitehaven)
RUSSIA 19-MAN SQUAD
Viacheslav Eremin, Andrey Kuznetsov, (Dynamo), Kirill Kosharin (CSKA Moscow), Ivan Troitskii (Ivanovo White Sharks), Vadim Buryak, Leonid Kalinin, Maxim Tsinkovich (Lokomotiv Moscow), Petr Botnarash, Mikhail Burlutskii, Sergey Gaponov, Sergei Konstantinov, Aleksandr Lysokon, Maksim Suchkov, Denis Tiulenev, Vladimir Vlasyuk, Nikolai Zagoskin (Nara), Dmitry Bratko, Igor Chuprin, Vadim Fedchuk (Moscow Storm)