There has never been conscription in Ireland – but Joe Cannon must have felt intense pressure to join the Irish Guards as World War II intensified.
“He skipped Ireland, basically, because he didn’t want to go in the Guards,” Joe’s grandson, Richie Myler, explains. “He jumped on a boat, met my granny over here and never went back.”
As young Myler climbed the ranks in rugby league, making his debut for Widnes in 2007 and representing England just a year later (earning seven caps, the most recent in 2018), Joe found out there was an Ireland team, too.
“He always said he wanted me to play,” said 32-year-old Myler after Leeds’ 28-20 win over Hull KR, in which he scored two tries.
“He said ‘I’d love to see you in green’. I said ‘maybe one day, grandad’. He passed about 10 years ago. That’s going to be a day… “
And so Myler plans to play for Ged Corcoran’s Wolfhounds, who will be led by Hull KR prop George King as they take on Jamaica, Lebanon and New Zealand with the aim of advancing beyond the group stage of the World Cup.
“I really want to play in the World Cup,” Myler said. “Ged was really open and honest in saying he wants to build something for this World Cup and the next one in 2025.
“With my age, I’m still hoping I’m going around in 2025 so I was really keen to get on board.
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“I’ve always wanted to play in a World Cup – always. I’ve always wanted to represent my grandfather’s heritage. He always wanted me to play. I always said ‘we’ll see…’
“I was going to play in the last World Cup and I’d just signed for Leeds and Brian McDermott was a bit like, ‘we’ll get you in for pre-season’.
“I had to come back from Catalans, there was a lot of stuff going on so I pulled out of it.
“But Ged’s been really good and I said ‘I’m keen’. This World Cup and the 2025 [tournament], I’m hoping to build on that. He wants me to do some coaching stuff, with the development in Ireland. So I’m over the moon with it to be fair.
“I’m really looking forward to it.”
Myler attended an RLI camp at Rochdale a couple of months ago that wasn’t exactly hush-hush … but they weren’t shouting the guest list from the rooftops, either. Some names still aren’t public.
When Luke Keary was asked about his declaration for Ireland, the Sydney Roosters playmaker dropped Myler’s name into the public domain for the first time.
“I’ve watched him play for a long time,” Myler says of Keary. “I think he’s a great player. He plays a similar style to what I like to play. He’s a very tough player.
“I’m really excited. [Ireland winger] Ethan Ryan played tonight, he’s a really good player. I’m just going to embrace the whole experience and enjoy it.
“Ged stressed the fact he doesn’t want people chopping and changing and that was a big draw for me because with building into the 2025 World Cup … 35, that will be towards the back end of my career.
“The next three or four years if we can build something, that’s his legacy and what he wants to do. “
And Joe Cannon’s legacy will be represented by Richie – just the way his asked it to be.
See Ireland take on New Zealand, Lebanon and Jamaica at RLWC2021 – get your ticket at rlwc2021.com/tickets