Britain banking on Goodway and McRae

Rugby League
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The Independent Online
As an odd couple, Andy Goodway and Shaun McRae would give Lemmon and Matthau a run for their money, but in their contrasting personalities Great Britain believe they could have found the winning formula.

Goodway, the former Oldham coach now with Paris, was confirmed yesterday as head coach for the series against Australia this November and also for the World Cup in the southern hemisphere next year.

Equally significant is the appointment of Shaun McRae, Australian-born and bred but highly regarded for his record over the last two seasons at St Helens, as technical coach.

It is on the combined effectiveness of these two new recruits that the national team's fortunes will depend over the next 14 months - and they could hardly bring to the job two more different sets of credentials.

Goodway was one of the finest players of his generation, playing with distinction for Oldham and Wigan as well as for his country on 23 occasions.

Such was his reputation as a rebel that it was a surprise to many that he ever crossed the tracks to become a coach. So far in that capacity, the most tangible achievement he can point to is keeping Paris clear of relegation after taking over there in mid-season.

McRae's playing career was cut short by a knee injury in his early 20s, but as a coach his record is remarkable. He was assistant at Canberra as they became arguably the best club side in the world and worked in the same capacity for Australia on two Kangaroo tours and one World Cup.

At St Helens, he won the double of Challenge Cup and the inaugural Super League Championship in his first season and retained the Cup this year.

"I'm delighted that the League has accepted my recommendation," said its technical director, Joe Lydon, who was put in charge of the trawl for the new coaching team. "I believe that Andy and Shaun are the ideal combination."

McRae also worked with New Zealand in the 1995 World Cup. "He has so much more experience than me in the international coaching sphere that I will be looking to him for a lot of guidance," Goodway said. "It is going to be very much a joint venture."

The paths of the two have rarely crossed. "The longest we have talked was in the car on the way over from Birch services," McRae said at the press conference in Leeds yesterday. "But I can already tell that there is a lot of common ground between us."

None of the management team believe that McRae's nationality will be an issue.

"I'm a patriot and a nationalist myself," Lydon said. "But my responsibility is to get the best possible coaching team for Great Britain, regardless of where they were born.

"The only proviso is that the people appointed must be coaching here, so that they know what is going on in this country."

McRae has already influenced the preparatory plans for the Australian series by successfully suggesting that Great Britain should adopt the system of a "train-on" squad, with players being brought into the national squad when their clubs are eliminated from the Premiership.

That is an Australian idea which could be of great benefit to McRae's latest international employers. "The bottom line is that I'm a professional," he said. "I would love to be part of a team that brings the Ashes back to Britain."

A third member of Great Britain's team - a fitness and skills coach - will be named within a fortnight.

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