16 Oct 2014

Ireland coach Mark Aston has named 12 uncapped players in his 20 man squad for the opening game of their 2014 Rugby League European Championship campaign against France at Tallaght Stadium, Dublin on Saturday afternoon.

St. Helens fullback Shannon McDonnell (pictured) is set to make his long awaited debut alongside four uncapped domestic players; Casey Dunne, Graham O’Keeffe, Michael Russell and Wayne Kelly. The side will be lead out by Leigh’s Bob Beswick, who will match Liam Finn’s record of 19 caps for the Wolfhounds. Finn is unavailable through injury but has taken up a role on Aston’s coaching staff for the Championships.

Also included in the squad are Josh Toole and Luke Ambler who were both part of the 2013 World Cup squad alongside Beswick. Aston is relying on youth with the addition of Haydn Peacock, Robbie Mulhern and Jobe Murphy, while experienced centre Michael Platt is set to make his first appearance in the Emerald since the 2008 World Cup in Australia.

Aston commented: “We are looking forward to facing France on Saturday. It is always a tough fixture. We will be hoping to get the championship off to a good start as there is a lot at stake this year with a place in the 2017 World Cup available for us if we win the tournament.”

Counterpart Richard Agar has named former Catalan Dragon Remy Marginet, who is set to make his debut in the halves in a French squad that has numerous play-making options. He joins the London-bound William Barthau and Salford’s Theo Fages, while Eloi Pelissier is the only specialist hooker named.

Palau’s Marginet said: “I was already surprised to be in the 23-man squad assembled for the first stage of preparation last week. It’s my first ever call up, I’ve never been selected before, even for a train-on squad. I’m really happy to be here; it’s a great group and we all get on really well. The group is a young one, but we have the ability to win the European Championship: that’s our goal.”

The French start as favourites in the competition, the winners of which will secure a place in the 2016 Four Nations. Toulouse Olympique are belatedly represented through the late call up of veteran forward Aaron Wood and young winger Tony Maurel, who replace the injured Catalan pair Vincent Duport and Morgan Escare. Jason Baitieri takes the captain’s armband.

Matty Hadden (Antrim Eels), Casey Dunne (Athboy Longhorns), Mikey Russell (Barnhall Butchers), Sean Hesketh (Batley Bulldogs), Wayne Kelly (Belfast Met Scholars), Haydn Peacock (Carcassonne), Jobe Murphy (Dewsbury Rams), Luke Ambler, Callum Casey, Ben Johnston (All Halifax RLFC), Elliot Cosgrove (Keighley Cougars), Robbie Mulhern (Leeds Rhinos), Bob Beswick, Michael Platt (Both Leigh Centurions), Joshua Toole (North Sydney Bears), Callum Mulkeen (Oxford RLFC), Shannon McDonnell (St. Helens RLFC), Graham O’Keeffe (Treaty City Titans), Will Hope (Unattached), Brad Hargreaves (Wigan St. Patricks)

Jason Baitieri, Julian Bousquet, Damien Cardace, Benjamin Garcia, Antoni Maria, Eloi Pelissier (Dragons Catalans), Kevin Larroyer (Hull KR), Jamal Fakir (FC Lezignan XIII), Remy Marginet, Frederic Vaccari (Palau), Theo Fages (Salford), Jean-Philippe Baile, William Barthau, Thibaud Margalet, Matthias Pala, Mickael Simon (St-Estève XIII Catalan), Tony Maurel, Aaron Wood (Toulouse Olympique)