Rugby League: Young guns primed to fire Britain's revival

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The Independent Online
After the blunders of a lacklustre performance against the Australians at Wembley last week, Dave Hadfield believes today's second Test at Old Trafford offers Great Britain the chance to inject some pride and passion into their performance.

One former Great Britain coach surveyed the wreckage of the national side's efforts in the first British Gas Test against Australia a week ago and declared that nine players should be dropped. But, he was asked, which nine players would he bring in to replace them? "That," he said, "is not my problem."

Andy Goodway has no such get-out clause, which is why he has limited himself to tinkering with the mixer taps, rather than throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

But are minor adjustments capable of delivering the major improvements that are needed at Old Trafford this afternoon? The optimistic answer to that is yes - and partly because British players who will not again make as many damaging mistakes, or fall so far below their optimum standards.

Goodway's fine-tuning has put Jason Robinson back on to the right wing after the experiment at full-back in the first Test, the theory being that he will get more attacking chances on the flank.

This is a difficult call. Against a side not exerting intense pressure, full-back can provide more opportunities. Against Australia, though, the defensive workload tends to blunt attacking aspirations. That is a historic fact - it was only a couple of series ago that a British full-back scored a try against Australia for the first time.

If Britain can involve Robinson from the wing as fully as Australia did Wendell Sailor in the first Test, he is a slippery handful for anyone.

The other significant change in the starting line-up sees Adrian Morley replace Mick Cassidy in the second row. The reliable Cassidy is a little unlucky to lose his place, but Morley is a more damaging runner with the ball and Great Britain have to select a team to win rather than to contain.

That is also true of the bench, which is full of attacking potential, thanks to three new caps in waiting in Sean Long, Simon Haughton and Mike Forshaw.

Haughton was a record try-scorer as a schoolboy and still has an overwhelming sense of where the line is. He does not so much score tries in the plural as the same one over and over again; taking the ball in a wide left-centre position, between 10 and 20 yards out, fending off a couple of tackles and driving over in the corner. One of those would be handy this afternoon.

Long also has the ability to turn a match with his speed and audacity. It would be a surprise if he did not play a significant role today. On the other hand, the incumbent scrum-half, Bobbie Goulding, can only be better for last week's run-out, his first for 10 weeks. And Andy Farrell at stand-off will surely come off the field more satisfied with his own performance.

The qualms about Farrell in that role are grossly overstated. Great Britain inevitably lose some of the impact he would make running from loose forward - although Paul Sculthorpe did pretty well in that role at Wembley - but there is no real alternative.

Before condemning the ploy out of hand, critics should ask when Paul Newlove last saw as much ball in a Test. Specialist stand-offs have served up a lot less to their back lines than Farrell did last Saturday.

The trouble at Wembley was not in Goodway's selection or tactics, but in execution and in the mood of the team - which, of course, is also the coach's responsibility.

Players who habitually put pride and passion into their performances will not be as flat and uninspired again, not with a decently filled Old Trafford behind them. They will not make as many blunders of Pennine League level. Stoked up by criticism from everyone from Maurice Lindsay downwards, they will show more fire up front; hopefully not at the expense of too many penalties.

And yet the essential difference between the two teams is apparent in the one change Australia have been forced to make. Ryan Girdler's knee injury brings in Ken Nagas, a proven match-winner at the highest level, and gives Russell Richardson, an unknown Cronulla reserve-grader a few months ago, a role from the bench.

With everyone fit and playing in a unified competition, Richardson would be perhaps their 15th or 20th choice centre. But, if he comes into the action this afternoon, nobody seriously expects him to be incapable of doing the job. Great Britain's first and, in some cases, only choices need to show that they are up to it as well.

at Old Trafford

P Atcheson St Helens 1 D Lockyear Brisbane

J Robinson Wigan 2 K Nagas Canberra

P Newlove St Helens 3 A Ettingshausen Cronulla

K Radlinski Wigan 4 B Mullins Canberra

A Hunte St Helens 5 W Sailor Brisbane

A Farrell Wigan, capt 6 L Daley Canberra, capt

B Goulding St Helens 7 C Gower Penrith

B McDermott Bradford 8 J Stevens Cronulla

J Lowes Bradford 9 S Walters N Queensland

P Broadbent Sheffield 10 B Thorn Brisbane

C Joynt St Helens 11 M Adamson Penrith

A Morley Leeds 12 G Tallis Brisbane

P Sculthorpe Warrington 13 D Smith Brisbane

Substitutes: S McNamara Substitutes: R Kearns (Perth),

(Bradford), S Long (St Helens), B Kimmorley (Hunter),

S Haughton (Wigan), C Greenhill (Cronulla),

M Forshaw (Bradford). R Richardson (Canberra).

Referee: P Houston (New Zealand) Kick-off: 2.30 (Sky Sports 1)