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The green shoots of Rugby League have been growing in the Emerald Isle since the formation of the Dublin Blues club side in 1989.
Since then, the Irish game has gone from strength to strength, with 20 clubs now taking part in the all-Ireland summer season.
Rugby League Ireland hopes to enter a team in Super League within the next five years – and a successful World Cup campaign would provide a real shot in the arm.
The Irish made their international Rugby League debut in 1995, beating the USA 24-22 in a St Patrick’s Day thriller in Washington DC.
Drawing on talent from Super League and the NRL, the Wolfhounds qualified for the 2000 World Cup and defeated Samoa, Scotland and New Zealand Maoris to reach the last eight, before losing 26-16 to England.
In 2008 the Irish, bookies’ favourites to finish bottom of their group, once again finished top thanks to a stunning victory over Samoa. The Wolfhounds found themselves just one away from becoming the first Irish team to reach the semi-final of a major international competition, but a place in the record books was denied them by the brilliant Fijians.
This time around, the Wolfhounds will entertain Australia at Thomond Park in Limerick, where an encouraging 3,100 people recently saw their team lose 34-16 to France.
With England and Fiji also in their group, the Irish will once again start as wooden spoon favourites. But the underdogs tag will mean nothing to coach Mark Aston – as any Wigan fan will attest.