Norway Rugby League have named three debutants in their 19-man squad to face an Irish Club Select XIII at the Franciscan College, Gormonston Park, Gormonston, County Meath tomorrow (Saturday, kick off 3pm).
The match, which will also act as a warm up for the Norwegians prior to their European Championship C decider with Greece (London on 18 May), acts as a qualifier for the next phase of the 2021 World Cup.
Both nations have selected solely domestic-based players for this first-ever meeting between them, and in preparation Norway held two camps led by Vikingene head coach, Dave Hunter and his assistant, Lars Haigh.
“We have never had so much competition for positions before,” said Hunter.
“There are some very good players who unfortunately missed out on a spot in the squad for this game. Our preparation has been good, fitness and skill levels keep increasing and we have seen a positive progression from the first to the second camp this winter.”
On facing the Irish he noted: “It’s a massive step up from what we are used to but so too will our World Cup qualifier be. I want the boys to experience a really tough match. It’ll give them a chance to prove themselves.
“The level of intensity will be very different from what they are used to here in Norway. The coaching staff will also be looking at different combinations. Our main objective is to prepare for the match with Greece.”
Ireland too are preparing for their World Cup qualifiers, against Spain and Italy in November.
“It’s fantastic to get a quality fixture like this so early in our season,” commented team manager, Kenny Calladine, “not just for the players but for the coaches also.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to gauge where players are in terms of fitness and ability, while finding areas that we really need to work on. Norway have improved significantly in recent years. They have established a foothold and are knocking on the door of World Cup qualification. We look forward to welcoming them.”
IRELAND 18-MAN SQUAD : Sam Cullen, Sean O’Sullivan (Barrow Cudas), Sam Boyd, Kenny McCombe, James Miller, Johnny Mooney (Belfast Met), Aaron Byrne, Conor Loughrey, Aaron Ryan (Galway Tribesmen), Andrew Coade, Matty Coade, Matt Connolly, Connor Creaby, Shane Kelly, Richie McHugh, James Mulvaney, Kevin Varga (Longhorns RL), Philly Morrison (Portadown Pumas).
NORWAY 19-MAN SQUAD : Harvey (Bardufoss Badgers), Casey Diggs* Sam Mullins* (Bodø Barbarians), Harald Mikalsen, Kristoffer Milligan (Flekkefjord Tigers), Arne Oma Torsen (Haugesund Sea Eagles), Joshua William Skidmore Hornby (Lillestrøm Lions), Simon Viljoen (Oslo Capitals), Kevin Båtnes, Chris Stalsberg (Porsgrunn Pirates), Magnar Hansen* Kim Andre Seglem (Sandnes Raiders), Ravn Arvidsønn, Kristoffer Borsheim, Nathan Cummins, Ezra McIntyre, Fredrik Nordtun (Stavanger Storm), Frank Kiriinya, Stephen Mwikaria (Trondheim Rugbyklubb).