Wales have released their 23-man squad for the forthcoming Rugby League World Cup that kicks off on Saturday 26th October when Iestyn Harris’ side takes on Italy at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
The squad contains 14 players from Super League, eight of whom are Welsh born and have come through the WRL development system, and five of whom are in contention for a Super League Grand Final appearance next Saturday.
Another of the Super League stars, Salford’s Jordan James, needs to play just four matches to overtake Ian Watson to become Wales’ most capped player. The opening game comes on the 10th anniversary of his international debut when on October 26th 2003 he scored a try in Wales’ 74-4 win over Russia in Aberavon.
There are four potential new caps in the squad including Anthony Walker, who made his Super League debut with St Helens this year, and Larne Patrick from Super League Leaders Shield winners Huddersfield Giants.
Patrick, with over 100 Super League appearances to his name, qualifies through a Welsh grandmother.
Warrington’s Rhys Evans, a Bridgend-born former Wales junior international, joins his twin brother Ben in the Wales squad for the first time while James Geurtjens from Queensland Cup side Norths Devils is the other newcomer.
There are two players from Championship 1 table-toppers North Wales Crusaders, Christiaan Roets and Rob Massam. No current players from South WalesScorpions have made the Wales cut for the first time since their inception, but skipper Joe Burke is among the three stand-by players who are ready to step in if there are any injuries.
Disappointingly for Wales, Wigan’s Andy Powell, Castleford’s Michael Channing and St George Illawarra’s Tyson Frizell have all been ruled out of the tournament by their respective clubs due to injuries.
This is Wales’ fourth World Cup finals and they know it will be their toughest yet. Wales reached the semi-finals of the 1995 and 2000 World Cups and managed to beat England, New Zealand and France in the 1975 tournament. Harris knows the quality of opposition that Wales have to face but he believes he has the squad to take them on.
“While I welcome our four new quality players to the squad, I’m really pleased that we’re maintaining consistency and we don’t have a whole team of newcomers,” said Harris. “We have a lot of experience in the side with 14 Super League players – the most I’ve ever known in the squad – and all of our players are improving year on year as they continue their international career.
“We have an enthusiastic 23-man squad, all of whom are raring to go for their country. We can’t wait for the tournament to start and, as always, aim to cause a few shocks.”
Wales will stage a warm-up match on Tuesday 15th October at Eirias Park in Colwyn Bay when they will take on a Welsh Rugby League Select XIII. Further details on that game to follow.
Tickets for all Wales’ World Cup matches can be bought by going to www.rlwc2013.com.
WALES SQUAD: Neil Budworth (Moranbah Miners, Australia), Ross Divorty (Halifax), Gil Dudson, Ben Flower, Rhodri Lloyd (Wigan Warriors), Jake Emmitt, Jordan James (Salford Red Devils), Ben Evans, Elliot Kear (Bradford Bulls), Rhys Evans*, Rhys Williams (Warrington Wolves), Dan Fleming (Castleford Tigers), James Geurtjens* (Norths Devils, Australia), Danny Jones (Keighley Cougars), Craig Kopczak, Larne Patrick* (Huddersfield Giants) Peter Lupton (Workington Town), Rob Massam, Christiaan Roets (North Wales Crusaders), Matt Seamark (Wynnum Manly Seagulls, Australia), Anthony Walker* (St Helens), Ian Webster (Central Queensland Capras, Australia), Lloyd White (Widnes Vikings).
*= possible new cap
STANDBY: Andy Bracek (Halifax), Joe Burke (South Wales Scorpions), Craig Moss (Keighley Cougars)
Coaching and Management Team
Head Coach - Iestyn Harris
Assistant Coach - Damian Gibson
Assistant Coach - Lee Briers
Analyst - Russ MacFarlane
Strength and Conditioning Coach - Mick Turner
Physiotherapist - Ben Stirling
Doctor - Dr Richard Lawrence
Team Manager - Bob Wilson
Kit Man - Colin Sergeant
Performance Psychology - Mick Farrell