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Liam Finn to lead Ireland in 2017 World Cup qualifiers against Russia and Spain

Veteran half-back Liam Finn will lead Ireland in their 2017 World Cup qualifiers against Russia and Spain.

The 32-year-old Wakefield scrum-half, Ireland's record points-scorer who led his country in the 2013 World Cup, is one of seven Super League players in coach Mark Aston's reduced 22-man squad.

The others are brothers George and Toby King, who were in the Warrington team that lost to Wigan in Saturday's Grand Final, their club-mate Joe Philbin, Huddersfield duo Scott Grix and Oliver Roberts and outgoing St Helens full-back Shannon McDonnell.

James Kelly, from Dublin City Exiles, is one of seven domestic players who was rewarded for his hat-trick of tries in Ireland's 58-10 warm-up win over Malta in Bray on Saturday.

Ireland, who play another warm-up match against Jamaica in Bray next weekend, open their European qualifying pool B campaign against Spain in Valencia on Saturday, October 22.

"I'm looking forward to playing and captaining Ireland in the World Cup qualifiers once more," Finn said. "Nothing will surpass the pride I have to play for Ireland alongside some of my closest friends.

"It's a tough ask in terms of logistics but luckily, once we get together as a team all that matters is enjoyment of rugby and our togetherness.

"To qualify for next year's World Cup is our goal and to get there essential, in my opinion, for the continued development of rugby league in Ireland. Hopefully we get the chance of a lifetime to play in Australia and I'm sure the qualifying games will live to expectation."

Ireland 22-man squad: G Gill (Ballynahinch Rabbitohs), C Hall (Belfast Met Scholars), J Keyes (Bradford), J Kelly, M Russell (Dublin City Exiles), A McMahon (Galway Tribesmen), L Ambler (Halifax), S Grix, O Roberts (Huddersfield), M Cahoon (Ireland Students), G McNally (Leigh), C Dunne (Longhorns RL), W Hope (Oldham), J Hasson (Parramatta), D Bridge (Redcliffe Dolphins), M Hadden (Rochdale), S McDonnell (St Helens), L Finn (Wakefield, capt), G King, T King, J Philbin (Warrington), D Allen (Whitehaven).

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