Donnybrook Cup Interviews

By Daniel Andruczyk

After the Donnybrook Cup was completed I was able to get a few words from Brendan Guilfoyle the Captain of the Irish Wolfhounds Team, David Niu the Coach of the USA Tomahawks and Neil Wood the RFL’s director of European development. While I was talking with Neil I took the opportunity to ask him about some of the recent developments in Europe with the split in Italy and Russia and got some very candid answers. So here are the transcripts. Enjoy!

Brendan Guilfoyle

RLIS: Brendan that was a really tough game, a lot of injuries coming out of it early on. How did you find the game?

BG: I think we knew coming into it that up front that’s where the game was going to be won and lost. i think the first twenty minutes dictated the game, were were under a lot of pressure on our own line for a good ten minutes in the first Twenty. Once we stuck it out we felt we were in with a chance. We’ll have a lot of sore bodies in the morning.

RLIS: It took about fifteen twenty minutes for those first points to come in from you guys, by that stage you had held the USA over your line I think twice, that must have been a real confidence boost fro your defence.

BG: Definitely! I think It’s when we recycled the benches is when we scored, we had a couple big fellas out on the start, we had twenty minutes going hard D. We picked a team for that and then we had slightly more mobile players come out and start to spread it and we got the try, i think it was more like twenty five minutes before we scored. So I think it’s kind of what we expected and luckily enough it went our way.

RLIS: Now just before half time the USA had something like four sets of six on the back of where you guys touched the ball and some penalties. They got one penalty where they chose to go for the two points right before half time and I saw that you guys got really excited about it.

BG: For our tired forwards that was really a moral victory for us I think. If it was us in that situation ten points down just before half time we would have gone for the throat, so we feel that was a really moral victory for our forwards that they felt they had to kick and couldn’t break our lines. That was a real tuning point for us. We knew we had just about got on top of them at that stage.

RLIS: In the second half the USA through that middle section, probably a good twenty minutes, really had the momentum despite the fact you had scored two tried by that point. they really were pushing your line and you held them up four times, and again your defence must have really got some confidence out of that?

BG: I think Alan Robinson our coach deserves a lot of credit for that, he’s played 5 times over here against the Tomahawks and from the start he said target the ball close to the line rather than run in for any big tackles, wrap up the ball you can kill the play. I think one of our centre’s Paddy Barcoe did that extremely well close to the line and our fullback Ashley Huck target the ball rather than go in for the big tackles, even when they got over the line we had someone under the ball. Yeah, in fairness Alan our coach we worked on that all week and it payed off today.

RLIS: In terms of preparations for the Home Nations mid-year what do you think the team needs to work on now?

BG: Oh, hahah, um I need to sit down and have a look at it. I think we did give a way a few penalties when under pressure and had a few mistakes early on where we knocked-on the ball a bit but to be honest I need to sit down and have a think about that and see where we need to go. Obviously the penalties Really puts us under pressure and we were lucky that our defence were solid today, I think that the big to work on.

RLIS: OK Brendan thanks and Congratulations.

BG: Thanks a lot.

David Niu

RLIS: David that was a tough match how did you find it?

DN: Yeah, that is always hard to loose. We had our chances early on but we failed to execute and score some points. I could try and sit here and make up excuses but they were better than us and we had chances to be really competitive we just couldn’t make it up.

RLIS: Now right before half time Apple Pope took those two points right when you had the Irish at the jugular. I think a lot of people who know their Rugby League would have looked at that and said “What’s he thinking”… what were you thinking?

DN: The truth was exactly what I said in the beginning we couldn’t get across the line. Our plan was working into that strong wind, if we could stay close and get some points on the board you know we’d give ourselves an opportunity. So I thought taking the two was the right move at the time and we went in with the feeling that we’d been working hard we got some points, we’re down eight and get back into it.

RLIS: Looking at the future you have the Colonial Cup, the two test against Canada and then you have the World Cup Qualifiers. So where do you see the team needs to go in terms of preparations for those matches.

DN: Yeah we got lots to do. We’ve got to build on the player base that we have, we’ve got to get back to some of the things that were successful for us you know and execute on some of those errors. We had new guys in some key positions which by the nature of things makes it difficult. But I think it was a good event, people supported it and Rugby league got another shot in the arm.

RLIS: I was actually going to ask how you found the weeks events and today, everything running. Things seemed to run quite smoothly?

DN: Yeah it worked out. We are working in a tough period, its cold, we’re coming out of winter its difficult conditions but we were lucky we got some sunshine and right now its not that warm but I’m pretty happy. We got to keep pushing forward we have a big year ahead and we cant be disappointed about something and we got to keep pushing forward.

RLIS: OK David, thank you very much. Congratulations on the event and commiserations on the loss.

DN: Thanks.

Neil Wood

RLIS: Neil what are your thought on the match today?

NW: I really enjoyed the game. I love seeing nations like Ireland and America play in this spirit its just fantastic and a decent crowd of people turn out to watch the game. I was involved in the very first game in 1995 so its fantastic to keep the series alive and its a great development too for both Ireland and the USA.

RLIS: Do you think these kinds of matches could be on the cards for other nations in the future?

NW: Yeah there is a big international program now, as you know well, you get all the all the results its a massive international program now, its unprecedented. This one is very special because its around St Patricks Day, so that’s where it grew out of the main driver behind it is St Patricks concept and is a great benefit for all the players.

RLIS: Now with the World Cup Qualifiers coming up this year, you’re probably more concerned with the European Side of things. This week it was announced the Qualifiers and where they were going to be held with two matches being held in Belgrade. You must be really happy with the way some of those countries like Serbia and Lebanon have come along in the last five to ten years?

NW: Part of my role is to actually organise the world cup qualifiers. The main reasons now I am over here is to do the site visits, look at the sights and do the assessments and see where and if it’s possible to hold a World Cup qualifier on this side of the water as well. But Serbia, with Jovan and Nebojsa are leading that program and are fantastic. Mohammed and Raymond in Lebanon just what they have achieved is beyond compare and watch out for Italy they made great strides in the last 12 months. Tiziano’s got a lot of help with him now and they’ve been brilliant and Russia are rebuilding. Don’t discount Russia! Russia is a big Rugby league country you know, there is a lot of activity there that is unseen.

RLIS: Yeah I wanted to mention that. The last couple of years there has been slits in Italy and Russia and we can’t really beat around the bush on that. I think in Russia there are three factions and in Italy two with Tiziano’s Group the recognized one. Can you say anything on what’s been resolved there?

NW: Russia I would disagree that its three groups fighting for control. There was a federation that was in place and recognised and they failed for various reasons. I don’t actually know the real reason why that group failed and drifted away and that left a vacuum. There is so much interest in Rugby league that people carried on. Now they weren’t fighting for control they just were carrying on doing what they had already done and somebody needed to be in charge and recognised as the governing body.

RLIS: So who’s in charge in Russia now?

NW: Well as it stands now the European Federation recognises the Russian Association of Rugby League Clubs with Eduard Tarturian and his colleagues. So we work with Eduard and working very closely with him. That’s not so say that there are other people we are trying to unify them. look they all share one thing, don’t mess around with splits, everyone shares one thing they all want the game to succeed.

RLIS: And Italy?

NW: Italy I am not exactly certain, there is a group that is geographically separate from what Tiziano and his group have been doing and they decided that they wanted to go and do their own thing which is fine and hopefully in the future those groups will come together. I am not certain they need to play in the same league, they can play separate divisions and have a play-off at the end of it if that what they want. But honestly my experience I don’t really see too many difficulties if they want to play Rugby League. The Federation of Italian Rugby League are now preparing for their competition they’ve got Kelly Roberston working with them and Tiziano’s working very hard as are all the volunteers getting a club structure and administratively they have have got a lot better and they are preparing for World Cup Qualification and I think they will be a very strong nation.

RLIS: Neil thanks for your time

NW: Its a pleasure.

I also did manage to ask Apple Pope the Captain of the Tomahawks what his plans were for the year. i do know that many of the readers of this sight have been asking what his plans are and how he qualified. So I put the question to him and he gave me a straight up answer. He wants to play for the Tomahawks, be their captain leading into the World Cup Qualifiers and thus he will be playing as an AMNRL player at large. This means he will not play for the Axemen or any USARL teams.

So there you have it folks!

Other News

In some other news quickly, the last few days a whole bunch of new websites have been Launched. The Jamaican Hurricanes launched their new site . Also The USARL wave launched their new website and while having a beer with Neil, though not officially announced yet the new RLEF website has also been put up at . So check out these new sites!


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