Wales start on the second leg of an improbable journey today when they face Ireland in Neath.
A year ago, the Welsh created a major shock when they beat France to take the final place in this year's Four Nations. Today's game is their one warm-up before meeting England next weekend.
"Last year nobody expected us to go to France and win," said the Wales coach, Iestyn Harris. "This year is the same and there is no pressure on us whatsoever."
Harris intends to use as many of his Four Nations squad as possible today, including the potential new caps Peter Lupton, Matt Seamark and Tyson Frizell. More importantly, he has his captain Lee Briers available after missing the clincher in France a year ago. Gareth Thomas, who stood in as captain that day, is also fit to play after recovering from his broken arm.
It was a much-changed Ireland team that lost to Scotland in Glasgow last weekend, with several of the eight new caps from the Irish domestic competition. "The domestic lads were really good and showed they can cope with this level of competition," said the new Ireland coach, Mark Aston.
He makes more changes today, with the return of Sheffield Eagles' winger, Tim Bergin, from suspension and the Leeds prop Luke Ambler from injury. Ambler replaces a Leeds team-mate, Kyle Amor, who is instead captaining Cumbria against England's second string, the Knights, at Whitehaven.
Cash-crisis club Leigh have avoided a winding-up petition in the High Court. The club says that with money advanced from the RFL they can now meet their commitments.Reuse content