Butt's first cap gives him the chance to be a trailblazer

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The Independent Online
RUGBY LEAGUE Ellery Hanley, his options limited by fitness and availability, has lined up five uncapped players for England's match against Wales in the European Championship tomorrow.

The Hull full-back, Richard Gay, the Castleford hooker, Richard Russell, the Leeds prop, Harvey Howard, and the second row, Anthony Farrell, from Sheffield Eagles, all play their first senior international, in Cardiff.

The most noteworthy name, however, is that of Ikram Butt, the Featherstone winger, born in Leeds 26 years ago of Pakistani parents, who becomes the first Asian to be capped.

Butt gets his chance because of the withdrawal of Alan Hunte with a knee injury, plus the fact that Martin Offiah, also forced out with knee trouble, was in the squad for the World Sevens in Australia this weekend.

"I've been hoping to be selected for some time," said the ambitious Butt, who sees his progress as a source of encouragement for other Asians with aspirations in the game. "Better late than never. Perhaps now coaches and teachers will give more encouragement to Asians."

Gay owes his place to the withdrawal of Alan Tait, a Scot who said he did not feel comfortable with the prospect of playing for England.

Howard gets his chance through the failure of Dean Sampson in his appeal against a four-match ban, while Andrew Farrell's ankle injury, which kept him out of Wigan's Regal Trophy victory, has created an opening for his namesake.

The absence of Shaun Edwards, with a recurrence of his hamstring problem, and Bobby Goulding, with a shoulder injury, means a recall for Deryck Fox, whose last international was the 1992 World Cup final. "I thought my international days were over and I'mdetermined to grab this chance," the 30-year-old Bradford scrum-half said.

Both Hanley and his captain, Phil Clarke, consider themselves the underdogs tomorrow night, but that depends on the side that the Welsh coach, Clive Griffiths, will be able to field.

He has delayed selection until today amid doubts over Kelvin Skerrett, Neil Cowie, Paul Moriarty, Kevin Ellis and Scott Quinnell. Jonathan Griffiths is out with hamstring damage and David Powell and Mark Jones have been added to the squad.

Neil Summers is Offiah's replacement in the Sevens squad which leaves for Sydney today, and his club, Bradford, have called off their rearranged match against Featherstone tonight.

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