RUGBY League Ireland chairman Dave Southern believes next week's inaugural Irish 'Roses' clash is a a key building block in the Emerald Isle's assault on the 2008 World Cup.
Teams representing Irish exiles based in Lancashire and Yorkshire will meet at Oldham St Annes on Sunday 20 February in a game that has been arranged by the Irish Democratic League, in association with RLI, to strengthen ties with the homeland.
Southern believes the fixture will help cement the bond between RLI and the large number of clubs in the north of England with strong Irish heritage, and will help broaden Ireland's talent pool ahead of the 2008 World Cup in Australia.
Southern explained: "We're obviously committed to developing homegrown talent - as the continued growth of the RLI Conference will demonstrate - but we're aware of the contribution that exiled athletes have made to Irish sport as a whole, and we intend to build a strong exiles network in rugby league that will underpin the excellent work that is going on at home.
"English-born players such as Terry O'Connor, Barrie McDermott and Martin Crompton have already made a massive contribution to Irish Rugby League and events such as this will help us identify overseas-based talent at all levels of the game.
"In the long-term, we'd like to establish formal links with 'exiles' clubs in the UK and elsewhere, to provide a clear pathway for players with Irish heritage to aim for representative honours. We view this fixture as a very exciting development for Irish Rugby League."
The game kicks off at 12pm and will open the 2005 Manchester Irish Festival. The two teams, which will be made up of players from the Halifax Irish, Dewsbury Celtic, Huddersfield St Josephs and Oldham St Annes clubs, will compete for the Michael Davitt Challenge Bowl, with the presentations being made by Ms Amanda Bane of the Irish Embassy in London.
Dave Southern ? Rugby League Ireland 00353 087 672 7911.
Chris Clegg ? Lancs IDL clubs 01282 602186.
Sean Hussey - Oldham Irish Society 0161 620 9207.
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