Rugby League - Harris aims to go out on high

Wales will be seeking to restore some pride when they bring their desperately disappointing World Cup campaign to a close in Neath on Sunday.

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Rugby League - Harris aims to go out on high
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Wales head coach Iestyn Harris - looking for consolation win

Iestyn Harris' men were strongly fancied to top their group and secure a home quarter-final in Wrexham but back-to-back defeats by the qualifiers, USA and Italy, undermined much of the good work undertaken by Wales Rugby League over the last five years.

Their 24-16 defeat to the Tomahawks came in front of a bumper crowd of 8,019 at the Racecourse Ground, which may struggle to match that for next Saturday's last-eight meeting between the Americans and tournament favourites Australia.

Harris' immediate concern is to bow out on a high against the Cook Islands in a 'dead rubber' at The Gnoll which he still sees as an opportunity to cash in on the interest generated by the World Cup.

Harris said: "We've trained well this week and, although we can't now make the quarter-finals of the World Cup, we want to go out on a win.

"We're pleased that we've managed to play games at the homes of both North Wales Crusaders and now South Wales Scorpions and we know that the crowds for these games will be about 10 times their normal attendances.

"So if anything, a good performance this Sunday from us will hopefully bring new fans into the Scorpions next season. That can only be good for the game in Wales."

Harris kicked seven goals when Wales beat the Cook Islands 38-6 in their last meeting in the 2000 World Cup but a repeat of that success is by no means guaranteed.

The Islanders were valiant in a 22-16 defeat by Tonga in midweek and coach David Fairleigh, the f ormer St Helens forward, says his team have history in their sights.

"I was pleased with the way the boys performed against Tonga, even though we didn't get the result we wanted," Fairleigh said.

"We were a little bit below par against the USA but we improved a lot against Tonga and , if we continue to improve, we'll get that win we all want.

"Getting the Cook Islands' first ever World Cup win is a big thing for all of us, and that's what the boys have been focusing on all week."

Sunday's match will bring the curtain down on the Welsh international careers of Salford prop Jordan James and former London Broncos hooker Neil Budworth.

James will bring his international career to a close with a record-equalling 30th appearance, enabling him to draw level with Ian Watson.

Dan Fleming (Castleford), Rob Massam (North Wales) and the previously injured Danny Jones (Keighley) are all named for the first time in the tournament and Wigan centre or second rower Rhodri Lloyd is recalled after sitting out last Sunday's defeat.

The Cook Islands will be without full-back Drury Low, who flew back to Australia on Thursday after his partner gave birth to their daughter. Lulia Lulia looks set to deputise and Wigan centre Anthony Gelling is poised to return.

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