FORMER Salford Red Devils player Will Hope has revealed his high expectations for Ireland in their Rugby League World Cup campaign.
Ireland reached the quarter-finals in both the 2000 and 2008 World Cups but failed to register a win in the 2013 tournament.
Hope said: “I think the minimum is the quarter-finals. If we do get to them, which I think we will, and if we do draw anyone I would really love it to be Australia, so we can have a crack at the Aussies in their back garden.
“That would be a bit of a dream come true.”
A match against Australia would setup revenge for the 50-0 thrashing they subjected Ireland to at Thomond Park, Limerick during the 2013 World Cup.
Salford-born Hope has been named in Mark Aston’s 24-man Ireland squad alongside Rochdale Hornets’ Belfast born prop Matty Hadden. Aston is also Hope’s coach through the club season, for Kingstone Press Championship side Sheffield Eagles.
Hadden backed up Hope’s optimism saying: “I think we’re capable of coming out of the group, quarter final. I think if we don’t do that it will be a disappointment.
“Obviously it’s going to be tough. It’s not going to be easy, but the squad on paper is probably the best Ireland squad there’s ever been.”
The Ireland squad includes a host of Super League players, including Salford back-rower Tyrone McCarthy and Wigan Warriors duo Jack Higginson and Micky Mcllorum.
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While their Super League teammates are full time professionals, Hope and Hadden are part-time and therefore explained the different strain a World Cup places on players like them.
Hadden said: “Obviously Will’s given up his work to come and do it and some of the other part-time lads have given up their work to come and do it and a lot of the full time lads have had coaches maybe say ‘Don’t go. Take time off. Let your body recuperate. It’s a long season.’
“A lot of boys will be straight back into preseason in November, so for them to give up their time and do it when they could be resting at home is massive, but then it’s a massive opportunity for them too, to play on the biggest stage.”
Hope supported that when he said: “You go away from work, you’re not getting paid, so it’s a massive commitment, but with the opportunity in front of you to do it, I think it outweighs it a bit.”
Ireland play their first group match against Italy at Barlow Park in Cairns, October 29, 4am kick-off (GMT). The match will be broadcast to UK viewers on Premier Sports.