Discarded dozen head home

Rugby League
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The Independent Online
A side on the verge of embarrassment in a Test series in New Zealand does not need the extra blow to its morale that was delivered yesterday by the decision to send 12 players home almost two weeks early as a cost-cutting exercise.

Great Britain's players - the 20 of them still here for the two remaining Tests against the Kiwis - described themselves, in some of the more printable terminology, as "gutted" and "devastated" by the decision.

"I couldn't believe it at first," Andy Farrell, the tour captain, said, while Bobbie Goulding added: "On a tour, you are all in it together, so this is a huge disappointment."

The Great Britain coach, Phil Larder, is employed by the Rugby Football League, whose chief executive, Maurice Lindsay, issued the order. He was choosing his words carefully.

"I'm very, very disappointed that the decision was made while I was on the other side of New Zealand and I didn't have the chance to speak to the players personally.

"It goes against everything I have always believed about building up a personal relationship with your players."

The decision, conveyed to the Great Britain camp via their travel agents, has been justified on financial grounds.

"On the same day, six members of the staff at Rugby League headquarters have been made redundant, so I do appreciate the financial realities," Larder said. "But I am absolutely sick that the players had to leave the party without myself, the captain or the Test players having the chance to thank them for their efforts."

In a phone conversation with Lindsay last night, Larder could have won a partial reprieve for some of the players due to fly home today. "He has told me that if I feel I need more players, I can keep some of them on. That is something we will have to discuss and make a quick decision about," Larder said.

"Apparently, he did not realise that I would be away from the players on the way from Whangarei to Palmerston North to join the Test squad at the time the decision would have to be made on who was going home."

Even if Larder negotiates a stay of execution for some of the discarded dozen - Joey Hayes, Jason Critchley and Mick Cassidy, would have been going home anyway with knee injuries - he still only has, for practical purposes, a squad of 19 for tomorrow's vital Test.

Larder has even less choice because Tony Smith, the Castleford scrum- half, who would have been a candidate for a place on the bench, has gone to hospital with an infected arm.

Picking a Test team has, therefore, been a relatively simple operation. Larder retains the 13 who started the Test in Auckland. Barrie-Jon Mather is the insurance cover for Daryl Powell, who has an hamstring injury, on the bench, and Karle Hammond is in line for his first Test cap among the substitutes. Chris Joynt and Steve Molloy are the other forwards on the bench which means no place for Adrian Morley, whose sin-binning in the first Test is widely believed to have cost Britain the match.