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Phil Simmons focused on crunch World Cup qualifiers

Updated: Wednesday, 22 May 2013 15:20 | Comments

Phil Simmons admits that the Pakistan game is not his top priority
Phil Simmons admits that the Pakistan game is not his top priority

Coach Phil Simmons has admitted this week's RSA Insurance one-day international series against Pakistan is not the main priority of a summer in which Ireland will bid to secure their place at a third consecutive World Cup.

Ireland host Pakistan in a two-match series in Dublin, which begins tomorrow, having never beaten a full-member nation in the Republic.

It is an unlikely statistic given Ireland's giant-killing at World Cups - which includes surprising Pakistan in Jamaica six years ago.

While Simmons concedes claiming a big scalp at home is long overdue, ensuring his side's place at the 2015 World Cup in Australia is his primary objective.

Ireland currently lead the World Cup qualification phase but face closest challengers Holland and Scotland in double headers later this summer to round out their campaign.

With the top two automatically securing a place Down Under there is little room for error and Simmons admits he would take wins in those games over success this week.

"I think we've got to recognise in a big summer the most important games are the four games we play against Scotland and Holland because that takes us to a World Cup," Simmons said.

"We've put that as a higher priority than this, but we want to win games like this.

"It is time to start winning games against full member team anywhere in the world. We haven't beaten a high-class full-member here at all.

"It is about time we start.

"We have to show how much we have improved since the last international team was here."

"I think we've got to recognise in a big summer the most important games are the four games we play against Scotland and Holland," - Phil Simmons.

The most recent full-member nation to visit Dublin was England two years ago when, captained by Irish-born batsman Eoin Morgan, they escaped with an 11-run win in a rain-affect contest.

That narrow reverse followed on from arguably Ireland's finest moment - when they stunned the English at the 2011 World Cup - and heightened debate as to whether they were ready to become a full-member nation.

That talk has slowed as Ireland's presence on the international stage has been reduced - last year's only home ODI against Australia in Belfast was a wash-out while hardly a ball was bowled of South Africa A's tour.

Work off the field has, however, moved at pace with the introduction of a new professional domestic competition this season.

The three-team RSA Interprovincial Series is a cornerstone to any bid for Test status - with the ICC contributing #500,000 a season - while Cricket Ireland also plan to apply for first-class status for the competition in 2015.

The impact of the work being done off the field has created pressure on the national team to produce on the pitch and Simmons believes his side are now arguably more accountable for their performances than some full-member nations.

"Our performances are a little but more magnified than the full members at the lower part of the table because of that," he said.

"The World Cup may be a priority but because of that we've always got to make sure our performances are of a high standard every time we go out.

"I think winning against teams like Pakistan who will be considered high up for the Champions Trophy will always put us in good stead with the ICC."

Ireland have named an unchanged line-up from the squad that beat the United Arab Emirates in their last World Cup qualifiers in March, although John Mooney will sit out tomorrow's game due to suspension.

Pakistan have pledged to name a full-strength team, as they prepare for the Champions Trophy, meaning the likes of mystery spinner Saeed Ajmal and seven-foot quick Mohammed Irfan are likely to play.

"We'll have to work out how we play against them," Simmons said.

"I haven't faced anyone seven-foot so I can't advise the players about that.

"What I do know is Pakistan from my playing days and they are recognised as one of the most unpredictable teams.

"The talent is unbelievable that they have. That's the excitement of Pakistan."

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