England turn to exiles for an edge

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The Independent Online
Rugby League


England's returning exiles can give them the edge in the Centenary World Cup, according to one of that international brigade, Denis Betts.

Betts is back in Britain after his first season for the Auckland Warriors in the Winfield Cup and, along with former Wigan team-mates and fellow emigres, Andy Platt and Phil Clarke, will form the backbone of England's pack for the tournament.

The experience the three have acquired will be channelled into England's cause and Betts has no doubts that it will be a positive influence.

"It is making me a better player and more competitive," he said at the unveiling of the World Cup trophy at Tiffany's in London yesterday.

"The game is still played at a different level in the Winfield Cup. If you play an average game here in Britain it looks good; over there, average is just not good enough."

Despite the continuing strength of the Australian teams he has faced with Auckland, Betts, who joins the squad in training tomorrow for the first time since his return, believes that England have a wonderful chance in the tournament, which starts with a match against with the world champions, Australia, at Wembley on 7 October.

There was a warning yesterday, however, from the potential dark horses in the World Cup - Western Samoa, represented at the launch by Wigan's Va'aiga Tuigamala.

"I always like to be humble, but we have just as good a chance as anyone else," he said. "We are in a tough group with Wales and France, but that means that, if we do progress to the next round, we will be ready for it."

The tournament, for which ticket sales are still no better than "steady", received an indirect but valuable boost to its profile in the capital with the London Broncos' victory over Leeds on Sunday.

There could be an immediate bonus for the Broncos, as well, with the Australian Test winger, Wendell Sailor, contacting the club to say that he wants to play for them.