HIS outclassed Wales side have conceded a staggering 122 points in just their opening two World Cup games but head coach John Kear maintains his side can finish with some “honour” against Ireland.
After a 50-6 hammering by Papua New Guinea was followed by an embarrassing 72-6 defeat by Fiji in Townsville, it has largely been a tournament to forget for Wales, who, in fairness, had just four Super League players in their ranks last week.
It has certainly been a sobering experience, even for someone as experienced as the veteran coach, but they hope to end with a flourish of sorts in Perth tomorrow.
Talking to The Yorkshire Post, Kear conceded: “It has been difficult, obviously, and now we’re facing an Ireland side who have had two very good displays in beating Italy and pushing Papua New Guinea so close.
“We’ve had two very indifferent performances. We were massive underdogs for both but now we know we have to be much better to hopefully sign off with a much improved display.
“I’m confident if we play like we can we head back with some honour and give the country – and the competition – a performance it deserves.
“The guys have been tremendous with their attitude and I have nothing but praise for them.
“It’s been tough with the squad we have but they’ve handled themselves with respect, the people here with respect and, off the field, we’ve not been involved in any controversies of any sort.
“Now we want to finish on a high.”
To do that, Wales will need to keep quiet two players that the ex-England coach knows inside out.
Ireland scrum-half Liam Finn and full-back Scott Grix both play at Wakefield Trinity where Kear is head of rugby.
The experienced duo, who each excelled for the West Yorkshire club this term, have been instrumental for the Wolfhounds so far, earning high praise from the demanding Australian media and public alike.
“I’m glad they’re having their time in the sun,” said Kear.
“They have played regularly now for Ireland for many years; they haven’t just flitted in and out when there’s been a World Cup.
“They’ve been there for European Cups, World Cup qualifiers, all sorts of games and a lot of credit has got to go to them for their commitment to the cause.
“I saw them both earlier this week and we had a chat but I know all about them obviously so there’s no secrets there.
“I thought they were excellent against Papua New Guinea and I know just what it’s like playing in Port Moresby. The best way to describe it is like getting in a tumble dryer – it is so intense and absolutely roasting.”
Unfortunately, after Ireland’s narrow 14-6 defeat against the Kumuls, they, too, cannot make the knockout stages but that will not take anything away from tomorrow’s encounter which is the first part of a double-header with England v France following.
Kear, meanwhile, spoke earlier this week about how he feels the World Cup is viewed as a “third-tier competition” in Australia with the hosts rating State of Origin – the annual three game series between New South Wales and Queensland – as the pinnacle and then their domestic competition the NRL.
Adding to those thoughts, he said: “I just think that that is how people perceive it especially in terms of the attention it’s been given.
“I was watching a World Cup game the other day and the ticker-tape all along the bottom of the screen was about Cooper Cronk going to the Roosters next year and the effect it might have on Mitchell Pearce. I was just thinking ‘I’m trying to watch an international game here.’
“Perth, though, is tremendous. They have made a big effort. They are trying to get an NRL club here.
“They have a first round NRL game being staged here next season and I can’t see why they shouldn’t have a club; the new stadium is phenomenal and we’re looking forward to playing here on Sunday. They reckon there’ll be 15,000 in and the stadium holds 20,000 so that will make for a great atmosphere with four European teams all playing, too.”
Matt Seamark replaces Josh Ralph after recovering from injury while Gavin Bennion could make his Wales debut as they seek to win their first World Cup game since 2000.