Along with a harsh lesson in international rugby league, Ireland captain Liam Finn will take something else memorable away from his side’s World Cup thrashing by the Kangaroos.
The Irish playmaker was taken aback when Australian halfback Cooper Cronk asked to swap jerseys after the 50-0 shellacking in Limerick, which sent the hosts crashing out of the tournament.
Finn said Cronk’s gesture was evidence of the camaraderie between players from the tournament’s elite and developing nations and he believes the relationship will help the game grow globally.
“I play second division rugby league in England and he’s probably the best halfback in the world and he wants to swap shirts with Ireland (players),” said Finn, who plays for Featherstone Rovers and is one of a host of Irish players competing in lower leagues.
“… It’s nice when people like that want to talk to you.
“We’re travelling back on the same flight as them and it’d be nice to have a chat and I’m sure they’ll be willing to pass on their knowledge.
“Because the message we get from a lot of NRL players is they want the game to develop and they’re happy to pass on their knowledge.”
Although Ireland’s campaign ended in three heavy defeats, Finn said Saturday’s match at Thomond Park – home of Munster rugby union club – had left “one of the biggest footprints we’ve made.”
The attendance of 5021 was a record for a rugby league match in Ireland and the lop-sided scoreline was not reflective of the Wolfhounds’ effort.
Coach Mark Aston said his side “stuck in, had a dig and showed character.”
Aston acknowledged the challenges that lie ahead, with a number of his senior players set to retire, further shallowing his available talent pool.
But the coach insists work will continue to grow the game at grassroots level.
“We’d like a level playing field and we only got together three Saturdays ago,” he said.
“There are 48 development officers for rugby union in this area alone. How can we get them to play rugby league? But we will be smart and do what we can.
“Tonight we needed to make sure we were loud and proud and we were.”