HOCKEY: World number one Australia head into the tournament as defending champs, having won the past two World Cups in 2010 and 2014. Tonight, the Kookaburras kick off their World Cup title defence against Ireland.
Reigning back-to-back world champions Australia will take on the Irish, competing at their first World Cup since 1990, from 10:30pm AEDT live on FOX SPORTS 505 on Friday night.
Australia last played Ireland at the Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia in March, winning 4-1. Ireland finished last in that six-team tournament with one win and four losses.
Ireland, who qualified for the Olympics for the first time in 2016, are only competing at their third World Cup, having never finished better than 12th.
The Irish also warmed up for the World Cup with five matches at the recent Four Nations in Valencia where they recorded two wins over world number seven England.
Pointing to those results and the FIH Women’s World Cup earlier this year where Ireland reached the final, Coach Colin Batch said the Kookaburras wouldn’t be taking anyone lightly.
“Any team can cause an upset here,” Batch said at the pre-match press conference.
“We haven’t played them since earlier this year. It’s a different group that we’re playing against."
Australia arrived in India on Saturday and trained at the Kalinga Stadium, where all matches will take place, for the first time on Sunday.
The stadium is familiar for the Kookaburras, who won last year’s World League Final in December at the venue.
Australia drew all three group matches at the World League Final, before triumphing in all three knockout matches to take out the title.
"We continued to improve during the tournament,” Batch said.
“We could not win a game in the group stage but we drew three games against quality opposition.
“We made it to the quarter-finals and our Hockey improved significantly from there.
"We have belief from that tournament that we can continue to improve at whatever level we start at.
“Earlier this year we have got some success in the Commonwealth Games and the Champions Trophy. Each tournament creates different obstacles."
Australia heads into the 2018 World Cup as one of the favourites for the title, given their 2010 and 2014 success, as well as their success over the past 12 months at the World League Final, Commonwealth Games and Champions Trophy.
The side achieved modest results this week in the lead-up to the Ireland clash, defeating South Africa (ranked 15th) 2-1 and drew 1-1 with Germany (sixth) in warm-up matches.
Kookaburras co-captain Aran Zalewski said the players were out to create their own history.
"It's great that Australia has such a proud history in World Cups,” he said.
“We have taken experiences from the past but this is completely different group.
“We have now got 10 guys making their debut at World Cup level.
"For us as a team this is our first real chance of winning a World Cup as a group. We are not taking it as pressure but as a challenge."
“They’ve had some good results in Europe. We’re not underestimating them.
“We need to take care of our own performance. They’ll be a very competitive and difficult opponent for us on Friday so we need to play at our best.”
Kookaburras’ 18-member team for the World Cup:
Athlete (City, State)
Daniel Beale (Brisbane, QLD)
Timothy Brand (Chatswood, NSW)
Andrew Charter (Canberra, ACT)
Tom Craig (Lane Cove, NSW)
Matthew Dawson (Killarney Vale, NSW)
Blake Govers (Wollongong, NSW)
Jake Harvie (Dardanup, WA)
Jeremy Hayward (Darwin, NT)
Tim Howard (Wakerley, QLD)
Tyler Lovell (Perth, WA)
Trent Mitton (Perth, WA)
Eddie Ockenden (Hobart, TAS)
Flynn Ogilvie (Wollongong, NSW)
Matthew Swann (Mackay, QLD)
Corey Weyer (Biggera Waters, QLD)
Jake Whetton (Brisbane, QLD)
Dylan Wotherspoon (Murwillumbah, NSW) *Plays for QLD
Aran Zalewski (Margaret River, WA)
Kookaburras’ 2018 World Cup schedule (all times AEDT):
Friday 30 November 10:30pm – Australia v Ireland
Wednesday 5 December 12:30am – Australia v England
Friday 7 December 10:30pm – Australia v China
Monday 10 December – Crossovers
Wednesday 12 December – Quarter-Finals
Saturday 15 December – Semi-Finals
Sunday 16 December – Finals