Tomorrow at 2pm in Dromore Rugby Club County Down an historic event in Irish Rugby League will take place when Northern Ireland host the Republic of Ireland for the first time in the newly structured State of Origin Series.
Previously the series had been competed for by Leinster, Ulster and Munster but from 2014 Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will face off in two games for the right to be crowned the Origin Champions.
With the possibility of four fully capped internationals playing in the series this could be one of the most fiercely contested fixtures in the Rugby League Ireland calendar.
Northern Ireland coaching team Kenny Calladine and Graeme Taylor have been able to call upon former Oxford star Matty Hadden for the series, which will give their side a considerable boost, as Hadden was the only domestically produced player included in Mark Aston’s World Cup squad last year.
Republic of Ireland coach Tony O’Brien, despite a late reshuffle, has a wealth of experience to call upon in the forwards with Wayne Kerr, Adam Hughes and Lemeki Vaipulu included in his 20 man squad.
Northern Ireland Elks Matchday Squad: Andy Hodgen, Tesh Edwards, Paddy James, Andrew Todd, Michael Carson, Nick Finlay, Robbie Stewart, Rodney Bennett, Wayne Kelly, Lee Barlow, Stephen Corr, Josh Donaldson, Matty Hadden, Conor Phillips, Gareth Gill, Matthew Cahoon, Tom Fraser, Austen Blackburn, Davy Nicholson.
Republic of Ireland Eagles Matchday Squad: Mark Kenny, Matt Connolly, Casey Dunne, Mick Fitzmaurice, Matt Bailey, Sean Rees, Adam Cox, Wayne Kerr, Laurie Byrne, Andrew Keating, Carl Roche, Cronan Gleeson, Simon Deevy, Mikey Russell, Ben Turner, Lemeki Vaipulu, Aaron McCloskey, Adam Hughes, Tavida Toai.
A report of this weekend’s Irish State of Origin game will feature in this Monday’s edition of Rugby League Express.