Limerick in the big league

RUGBY League superpowers Australia are expected to be announced as Ireland’s opponents in a glamour 2013 Rugby League World Cup pool match to be staged at Thomond Park.

RUGBY League superpowers Australia are expected to be announced as Ireland’s opponents in a glamour 2013 Rugby League World Cup pool match to be staged at Thomond Park.

Limerick beat off stiff competition from rival applications across Europe to stage a pool match in the 14-nation tournament in the autumn of 2013.

Each of the bidding hosts underwent a detailed inspection from a 2013 team to examine the various sites venue specifications, as well as evaluating the enthusiasm and commitment of each bidding host.

Ireland are in Group A for the World Cup along with England, Fiji and Australia, who are tipped to provide the opposition when Thomond Park plays host to a marquee fixture.

Details of host fixtures and venues for the opening ceremony, the semi-finals and the final will be confirmed early in the New Year. Upwards of half a million people are expected to watch the 28 Rugby League World Cup matches live over a six-week period in 2013, with a further 20 million TV viewers from 120 countries tuning in around the world.

Karen Brosnahan, of Shannon Region Conference & Sports Bureau, who was the main Limerick bid organisers along with Adam Skerritt, of Shannon Development, said: “This is fantastic news for Limerick, the Shannon Region, Thomond Park, Rugby League Ireland and the Irish sporting public. The announcement by Rugby Football League (RFL) is the ideal conclusion to an intensive 12 month campaign that was built on showcasing Limerick’s superb sporting infrastructure and our superbly passionate sporting people.”

Adam Skerritt added, “For Shannon Development, the Bureau & Rugby League Ireland to secure Limerick host venue status for a global event the size and scale of the 2013 Rugby League World Cup is massive coup. It also a major endorsement of Limerick’s ever growing reputation as a world class sporting destination.”

Ireland’s World Cup pool meeting with England is likely to be staged in England as the main hosts of the tournament.

Gordon Matthews, General Manager, Rugby League Ireland, said he was hopeful Ireland’s Group A match with pre-World Cup favourites Australia would come to Thomond Park. “One of the other host cities is Rochdale and I understand there is a big Fijian community there so Ireland’s pool match with Fiji could go there. That would increase the chances of the Australian game being in Limerick, but we don’t know for sure yet,” Matthews pointed out.

“Australia would be a fantastic game for Thomond Park to host. While they are not World Champions at the moment, they have been champions for most of the past 20 years. If you wanted to get any team to play against in the world, Australia are the ones to get.”

Thomond Park staged its first rugby league match ever at the beginning of November when a crowd of 3,000 saw Ireland beaten 16-34 by France. The Limerick venue may also host further rugby league international fixtures in the near future.