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Simmons lays down challenge


Phil Simmons

Phil Simmons

Phil Simmons

Ireland coach Phil Simmons believes Ireland must prove they are worthy of a place at the World Cup after being handed a route back into the tournament by the International Cricket Council.

Ireland will be expected to qualify for their third consecutive World Cup in 2015 after the ICC announced that four associate nations will play in Australia and New Zealand. Only two months ago the ICC announced it no longer wanted to have a 14-team World Cup and that the tournament would be restricted to only its full members.

"The real work starts now. We've got to show the ICC and the full members that we can perform in the final stages," said former West Indies all-rounder Simmons.

"That means reaching semi-finals and finals, not just the occasional shock. We've got to take our cricket to the next level and show we belong as a right at these global events."

The fact the ICC bowed to the pressure is perhaps a reflection on the strides Ireland have made on the international stage, however Simmons wants more from his upcoming side.

The Irish have played the spoiler's role at their two World Cup appearances - reaching the last eight in 2007 before this year's tournament was highlighted by a memorable win over England.

Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom labelled the ICC's choice to reverse their initial decision as courageous, and admitted the ramifications of missing the World Cup would have set the country's progress back significantly.

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"I would say from a narrow Irish perspective, the growth we've enjoyed in the game - is primarily as a result of the World Cup," he told Sky Sports News. "It shone a light on Irish cricket and through profile you get interest, through interest you get investment and through investment you receive resource. That allows you to invest in the game."

"Then also, from a player's perspective, a World Cup allows a player to have an aspiration. We've grown our numbers from 2007 to 2011 by 66%.

"We put so much of that down to the success at a World Cup because for the very first time, rather than looking overseas to have heroes, we think your average Irish cricket fan can now look to Irishmen as cricketing heroes - and that is a massive seismic shift. If we were to remove the World Cup we would remove all of that potential."

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