Irish eye Tri-Nations place
Coach Andy Kelly has called for Ireland to be added to an expanded Tri-Nations after his side's brave World Cup exit.
Last Updated: 10/11/08 6:42pm
Coach Andy Kelly has called for Ireland to be added to an expanded Tri-Nations after his side's brave World Cup exit on Monday.
The Irish were beaten 30-14 by the multi-talented Fijians in the semi-final qualifier in front of a crowd of 8,224 at Gold Coast's Skilled Park, missing out on a semi-final against world champions Australia.
But the 2000 quarter-finalists are confident of being able to go one better next time and, in the meantime, hope their achievements Down Under will earn them a call-up to the Tri-Nations Series.
The series is due to be expanded in 2009 with the addition of France but, after the Tricolors finished with the wooden spoon from the 10-team tournament, there are calls for the Irish to be promoted above them.
Asked for his reaction if the French are confirmed as the fourth nation, Kelly said: "I would feel a little put out. I feel that we deserve a shot at something that is of a higher profile.
"We would be more than happy to be involved. There are a few suggestions about the next tournament but we've got nothing definite yet.
"I would hope something would be put in place quite quickly and it's a viable competition that we can all benefit from.
"I understand there is another World Cup possibly in five years and, if we can get regular fixtures, I am sure we can go further than we have this year.
"I think Ireland's improvement and regular international fixtures would help England as well."
Kelly also believes the introduction of an Ireland club in the English National League would provide a boost not only to the national side but to Ireland's fledgling domestic competition, which produced just four members of his 24-strong World Cup squad.
"I've suggested we need to look at the viability of having a National League side because we need to produce players who can cope with this kind of football," he said.
Ireland went into Monday's game full of confidence and determination following their shock 34-16 win over highly-fancied Samoa.
Kelly added: "The spirit that we built among the players was there for all to see but we strayed away from what we've done well and that's why we were under so much pressure the whole game."
"The spirit wasn't enough but, even in defeat, I'm really proud of the guys. I reckon we must have defended for 70% of the game. We defended manfully and still had the energy to come up with a score at the end."