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Aust can't afford Ireland slip up: Sheens

Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens says his players can't afford to slack off against Rugby League World Cup whipping boys Ireland, warning one bad game could be enough to lose a spot in his side.
Aust can't afford Ireland slip up: Sheens
by AAP

By Liam FitzGibbon

LIMERICK, Ireland, Nov 7 AAP - Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens says his players can't afford to slack off against Rugby League World Cup whipping boys Ireland, warning one bad game could be enough to lose a spot in his side.

Australia are expected to run out big winners in their final group game in Limerick on Saturday, with Ireland conceding 72 points in their opening two games - more than any other nation.

Nonetheless, Sheens is treating the hosts with respect and believes intense competition for places within his best 17 will ensure there is no complacency from the tournament favourites.

"Guys can't afford to play poorly in any Test match, let alone as the competition goes through and we're looking for our best team," Sheens told AAP.

"It's not a bad idea to put up your hand and play well.

"... They've got in their minds, and I've planted that seed a little, there are positions up for grabs for the quarter-finals here.

"That's really the thing I think will keep them fairly motivated."

Australia will face Ireland for the first time and victory will seal top place in Group A and a quarter-final meeting with tournament surprise packets the US.

After rotating his squad throughout the group stage, Sheens is expected to return to his first-choice team from next week and several positions are still up for grabs.

Daly Cherry-Evans, who starts at five-eighth against Ireland alongside Cooper Cronk, is battling Robbie Farah for a bench utility spot while the likes of Boyd Cordner and Nate Myles are in the running to take injured Luke Lewis' interchange spot.

Veteran Brent Tate is the frontrunner to partner Greg Inglis in the centres but faces competition from Michael Jennings and Josh Morris, who lines up alongside twin brother Brett at Thomond Park.

Sheens has suggested he will remain loyal to his players that beat England in the tournament opener, provided they hold their form.

"The guys themselves would understand they have to play themselves out of a position rather than someone play themselves in at this point," Sheens said.

Ireland's faint hopes of progression ended in a 42-0 defeat to England last week but Sheens expects a spirited performance from the Wolfhounds on home soil.

Mark Aston's side features some NRL talent in Brett White, Rory Kostjasyn, James Hasson and Api Pewhairangi, but a lack of depth has been exposed in heavy losses to Fiji and England.

Australia could be in for another wet and wild night, with forecasts indicating similar conditions as in their 34-2 win over Fiji in St Helens last week.

"There will be an element of levelling with the conditions," Sheens said.

"... We still have to do the basics.

"With the conditions, the home crowd and nothing to lose, there's lots of things that can lift a side.

"They'll come out with a good attitude and we've got to match that."

A modest crowd of around 6,000 is expected in Limerick, a rugby union stronghold.





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