Fomrer Ireland star Johnny Lawless has urged the RLI not to go ahead with their plans to reduce the use of heritage players.
The former Sheffield and Halifax hooker played 10 times for Ireland during his career and featured in their successful 1999 World Cup campaign that saw them reach the quarter-finals.
Lawless, speaking exclusively to Rugby League World for a feature in this month’s magazine (Issue 448, Aug ’18), believes the plans in place would damage the game in Ireland and would deny a lot of players a chance to proudly wear the jersey.
“It was one of the highlights of my career,” he said.
“When I played for Ireland I was as proud as anybody to do so. Especially that World Cup in 1999, which was one of the standout moments of my career.
“I loved playing for Ireland, I think it would be such a shame if they went through with the decision they’ve made as they’d move back really quickly. I think it needs a re-think and that would be really nice to see.
“Back in 1999 Ralph Rimmer was involved in the management staff and we spoke about building for the future in Ireland and all the money we raised would go back into the Ireland leagues. It’s really disappointing to hear.”
Lawless played a small part in the Wolfhounds’ impressive World Cup campaign last year, handing out jerseys ahead of their victory over Wales in Perth.
“Without doubt I stand by them.
“I was in Perth last year when the World Cup was on and I went to watch the game there and was invited to hand the shirts out with Daryl Powell before the game which I was really proud to be asked to do. We spoke about stuff and when I was there it was when I wished I was still playing.
“The spirit they played with and the plaudits they received for their efforts reminded me of why I loved playing for Ireland.”
A feature piece with the former Ireland ace is available in the upcoming edition of Rugby League World (pictured), which hits stores Friday 27th July or is available online from Thursday. Lawless discusses life after Rugby League, his involvement in Rugby League’s mental health movement and Sheffield’s famous Challenge Cup victory 20 years on.