Aston hopes Irish eyes smile on him during clash with England

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Mark Aston’s has had a tough introduction to coaching in a Rugby League World Cup - and it doesn’t get any easier at the weekend.

His Ireland team lost their opening game to Fiji - and next up are England, in a clash that will decide the Wolfhounds’ fate in the competition.

But the Sheffield Eagles boss is positive about stepping into the international arena, and warns against ruling out an upset.

“The pressure is on England – they have to win,” he said.

“We’re disappointed by losing to Fiji but we’ll build on that.

“We’re not phased about facing England - we’re positive and we’ll give them a game.”

Aston has a squad that mixes established Super League players like Pat Richards (Wigan) and Scott Grix (Warrington) with part-timers from the second tier in the UK game and star players from Australia’s NRL – known as one of the world’s toughest leagues.

His has familiar faces, with former Eagles players and Ireland internationals Ryan Sheridan and Ged Corcoran leading his back-up team at their training base in Preston.

“Ryan’s a great coach to work with and Ged is passionate about Ireland, and we’ve got a great group of players,” said Aston.

“We’ve only been together for 10 days and didn’t have the luxury of a warm up game.

“Things are coming together and there’s a great atmosphere in the squad – the lads have mixed in well.”

That spirit will be tested against England in front of a sell-out crowd at Huddersfield on Saturday, in a game live on BBC TV (kick-off 2.30pm).

England need a big performance following a 28-20 defeat to Australia.

And Ireland know that a second defeat, after the 34-14 loss to Fiji in their opening group A game, will effectively end their hopes of making the knock-out stages.

With only a five-day turnaround and full-back Scott Grix struggling with a leg injury, Aston’s motivating skills will be tested.

“The Fiji game was a disappointment but we got better as the game went on and finished strongly,” he said.

“There are lots of positives, and there’s a character and toughness in the squad.

“We’re in the toughest group, but playing England is a great motivation.

“We can expect another physical, brutal game. The signs were there in the Fiji game.

“We’ve got big players like Brett White (Canberra prop forward) who was outstanding, and the lads are looking forward to going up against England.”

Switching to his Eagles’ role, Aston is close to adding a young forward, who has been released by a Super League club, to his squad for the 2014 Championship season.

It follows the signing of experienced prop Ben Jones from Dewsbury Rams.