Former Ireland rugby union international Andy Ward is predicting a bright future for rugby league in the country.
The Irish Wolfhounds will take on Scotland and England Knights in the Alitalia Cup next month as they prepare for the 2013 World Cup in which they host Australia in Limerick.
Ward attended Wednesday's launch of the game against the Knights, which will take place at Deramore Park, Belfast, on Friday, October 19. He said: "This is going to be great. Ireland-England is always special and personally I'm delighted that such a huge game is going to be in Belfast."
He added: "I played rugby league with the Ballynahinch Rabbitohs after I retired from the professional union game and I've seen the club game here grow and grow an amazing amount over the last few years.
"I hope it will push on and really establish itself, especially now there are clubs in Ulster, Munster and Leinster playing in well-organised leagues.
"Rugby union and both the GAA sports [Gaelic football and hurling] are obviously incredibly popular in Ireland north and south at the minute and, if people love those, they are going to love rugby league."
The squad for the game against the Knights, which will be the first international to be played in Belfast since the opening match of the 2000 World Cup when Ireland beat Samoa 30-16 at Windsor Park, will be announced by coach Mark Aston next Monday.
- Ireland rugby