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Liam Finn beaming with pride ahead of Ireland's Rugby League World Cup opener

Updated: Monday, 28 Oct 2013 19:51 | Comments

Liam Finn of Ireland, Craig Kopczak of Wales, Olivier Elima of France and Kevin Sinfield of England during the Rugby League World Cup launch
Liam Finn of Ireland, Craig Kopczak of Wales, Olivier Elima of France and Kevin Sinfield of England during the Rugby League World Cup launch

Irish pride will be at the heart of Liam Finn's pre-match address to his team-mates in Rochdale tonight (8pm), with the Featherstone playmaker knowing better than most what it means to wear the green shirt.

The 29-year-old half-back has been a mainstay of the Ireland side for several years now and assumed the captaincy in 2012 - a decision reflecting his maturity and excellent form at club level.

He is West Yorkshire born and speaks with no hint of an Irish accent, but with his father Brendan hailing from Wexford, he is well versed in the country's heritage and traditions and holds them even dearer since Brendan passed in 1993.

All those factors are sure to be in his mind ahead of the meeting with Fiji at Spotland and he intends to make the most of another opportunity to wear his country's shirt.

"My dad was born in Wexford and moved over with family when he was young, with my uncle the first born in England. I lost my dad when I was ten, so when I got the chance to play for Ireland I jumped at it," he said

"I see it as a privilege every time I do it and that's why I'm not one of these people who comes and goes for the fancy games. I want to be there year in, year out, and that's what I have done for Ireland. I have always treated it with the respect it deserves."

Ireland find themselves grouped with Australia and England as well as Fiji and with three teams going through, it is not too radical a claim to suggest that the winner of their meeting on Monday night could well take third spot.

"We're very excited, are looking forward to getting kicked-off and hopefully we can start with a bang" - Liam Finn

That should not be beyond Ireland and their players, even if as usual, coach Mark Aston has had to travel to the furthest boundaries of eligibility to put a squad together.

"We're very excited, are looking forward to getting kicked-off and hopefully we can start with a bang," said Finn, who has saved up holidays in his job as an electrician in order to play, added.

"To come to things like this, chatting to people regarded as the best in the world is almost surreal for a player from the Championship in England to be in this environment. I'm trying to embrace it and be excited by it."

Aston's men will encounter a Fiji side given a passionate backing by the Rochdale locals, with the Greater Manchester town boasting the biggest Fijian population outside of London.

Fijians started to trade their home land for Rochdale in the wake of the town's rugby league side signing union internationals Orisi Dawai and Joe Levula in 1961.

"Rochdale has been amazing, (with the) support we've received since we arrived," said captain Petero Civoniceva, a battle-hardened old warhorse more associated with Australia who is fulfilling an ambition to lead the country of his birth.

"Hopefully we've convinced enough of the Rochdale people to get behind Fiji as we've strong links there."

Meanwhile, England will be without Sam Burgess for Saturday's World Cup group game against Ireland after he was given a one-match for a high tackle during his side's opening 28-20 defeat by Australia.

The South Sydney forward was put on report by referee Henry Perenara for the 63rd-minute challenge on Brisbane second rower Sam Thaiday which left his opponent concussed.

A specially-convened international match review panel charged Burgess with a grade A offence and handed down the suspension.

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