London Skolars are to take on a Select X111 from the current World Champions Bradford Bulls in a pre-season friendly in Dublin on next Sunday January 23rd at Blackrock College RFCs ground in Stradbrook, kick-off at 1.30pm.
Three Irish student internationals will be 'on trial' during the game. Vinnie O'Dowd (Dublin Blues) and Alan Pembroke (Kilkenny Wildcats) will play with the Bulls and Oran D'Arcy (Clontarf Bulls) for the Skolars.
Details of the game were announced at a press conference in the Mount Herbert Hotel at Lansdowne Stadium this afternoon.
Alex Smits, Skolars' player/coach and Stuart Duffy, Bulls' Media Manager and trialist Vinnie O'Dowd were in attendance and all three expressed their hopes for Sunday's match. Tickets are � 10 for adults and � 5 for students. A family ticket is � 25.
Rugby League Ireland Chairman Dave Southern said Rugby League Ireland is excited by their 2005 Action Plan and the Bulls/ Skolars fixture
"We feel that Ireland is ready for a high profile professional game such as this. The Bulls are committed partners of ours and have already spent time and finance promoting the game over here and have generated considerable interest.
"The Bulls new away jersey was designed by Dublin schoolboy Damien Thomson, Holy Rosary National School, Firhouse. Damien won a design competition organised by the Bulls on their last visit to Dublin in June 2004. The Bradford Bulls are donating � 1 from every shirt sold to the Jack and Jill Foundation, run by Jonathan Irwin, in Ireland.
"As it stands the Bulls are probably rugby leagues' most progressive club. The Skolars on the other hand are relatively new kids on the block, but they are also modern and progressive in the way they are developing. They, like the Bulls, have been integral in developing rugby league in Ireland."
"Blackrock rugby club as a venue shows how open rugby union is to rugby league and their support has been fantastic. I hope the UK based fans will come over to Dublin. It's a great city and realistically priced to get to.' he concluded.
The domestic 2005 season starts in May with the Grand Final in August. The Students go to Australia for the Students' World Cup in June. Amateur Internationals against Wales, Scotland and England are scheduled for June, July and August.
It will be the first 2005 pre-season game for the Skolars and with a home fixture against London Broncos a fortnight later the Skolars are clearly looking for tough opposition before their opening games in the Northern Rail Cup.
Skolars club chairman Hector McNeil now works in Dublin and this year has seen first hand the great strides that Rugby League Ireland has taken, "This is an unbelievable fixture for the club, the Bulls and Rugby League Ireland. The Skolars are 10 years old in 2005 and what a great way to mark our birthday. This allied with our pre-season game against the Broncos is really showing how the club really does push the boundaries of Rugby League.
"I also think the game is exactly what rugby league needs in Ireland. Dublin is rugby mad and is crying out for a high profile rugby league game. The sell-out European Nations Cup game between Ireland and Scotland held in Navan in October proves that there is an appetite for League here. Given the burgeoning nature of the growth of the domestic game in Munster, Ulster and Leinster we expect a great crowd."
"The game really shows the Bulls commitment to expanding the game both in London and Dublin, opening their doors to a wider fan base. Rugby League Ireland have also shown themselves to be one of rugby leagues new breed of administrators and shows preparations for the 2008 World Cup are going well.