OLDHAM’S impact prop Michael Ward has been rewarded for an impressive season of Championship rugby by his inclusion in Ireland’s train-on squad for World Cup qualifying games against Russia and Spain next month.
Ward (25), Oldham born, wins his first international recognition in Mark Aston’s 40-man squad, qualifying because his paternal grandfather left Galway as a young man to settle in the Oldham area.
Also named is Ward’s Roughyeds team mate Will Hope, who has already won several Irish caps.
“I’m sweating now on getting a place in the team, but I’m buzzing at getting in the 40,” said schoolteacher Ward, who played in 31 of Oldham’s 33 games in the season that’s just finished, scoring eight tries.
Danny Langtree also scored eight, but the only forward to score more was Kenny Hughes with nine.
The only games ‘Wardie’ missed were due to a two-match suspension when he entered an early guilty plea for use of the elbow in a late-season game with Workington Town at Bower Fold.
Ireland play Spain in Valencia on October 22 and Russia at home on October 30 at a venue to be announced.
Former Oldham prop Wayne Kerr (32), now playing in the Irish domestic competition, is also in the squad, alongside 10 Super League players and nine from the Championship.
Oldham could have four players in the World Cup qualifiers because prop Joe Burke (Wales) and full-back Richard Lepori (Italy) are also selected in their respective squads. Both already have international caps.
John Kear’s 29-man Welsh squad, to play Serbia and Italy, includes 10 Super League players and nine from the Championship.