By Joseph Crabtree
Representing your country means an equal amount to domestic and heritage players alike, according to Ireland international Matty Hadden.
The Belfast born prop has been selected for his second World Cup, after Mark Aston named him in his 24 man squad for the 2017 tournament.
Hadden said: “Everyone’s got the same pride of playing for Ireland, whether you’re born in Ireland or you’re not born in Ireland. You’ve still got Irish in you and that’s why you do it.”
Hadden plays at club level for Rochdale Hornets after playing in the Irish domestic scene for Antrim Eels and being given his chance in England by Oxford.
He is one of five players who came through the Irish system to be included in their World Cup squad, alongside Shannon McDonnell, Casey Dunne, James Kelly and Alan McMahon. Mikey Russell has also joined the squad as a travelling reserve.
Hadden highlighted how their inclusion could impact growth: “If I can take back the things I’ve learned here and try and embed it back home and maybe encourage people to see the be all and end all isn’t rugby union, there are other things you can approach.”
“I’ve played Rugby League now and it’s given me some great experiences, only at a part-time level, so maybe some lads back home who don’t quite make it in rugby union will see that and maybe give it a go, because I believe it’s a better sport. It’s more enjoyable and hopefully they can see that as well.”
The 27-year-old also emphasised the individual benefit of being named in what he views to be the best squad Ireland have ever produced: “It’s great to be involved with the quality of players we’ve got. We’ve got some serious players this year and if I can learn stuff off them then brilliant, so from a selfish point of view, if I can pick stuff up off them that will maybe help me when I go back to Rochdale, it’s even better.”
Hadden’s Ireland teammate Will Hope was born in Salford and qualifies for Ireland through his heritage.
He offered his thoughts on the inclusion of domestic players: “To get more people in like this, it’s only going to develop it more, so it’s doing the world of good for Rugby League Ireland.”
Ireland will face Italy in their first group match at Barlow Park in Cairns, October 29, 4am kick-off (GMT).