Fulton anxious to avoid Kiwi danger

Australia's coach talks to about his World Cup selection problems
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The Independent Online
The Australian coach, Bob Fulton, still has to decide who will play in several positions in the Centenary World Cup's opening match against England at Wembley next Saturday.

Fulton, renowned for never fixing anything that is not broken when it comes to selection, admitted yesterday that he was still in two minds over a number of roles in his team. The one Australian player still to arrive, Rod Wishart, will play on one wing and take the goalkicks, but any one of John Hopoate, Brett Dallas and Robbie O'Davis could fill the other flank.

The other major quandary is at loose-forward, where two players from the new Australian Premiers, the Sydney Bulldogs, could be in direct opposition for the job. Jason Smith is the incumbent, having played in the Test series against New Zealand earlier this year, but Jim Dymock could find his decision to play for Australia rather than Tonga in the tournament rewarded with a starting place at Wembley.

"There is a lot of competition, but I'm hopeful of being at least in the 17," Dymock said. "I will probably be used as a utility player, because I can cover a few positions."

Fulton will name teams for both the England game and the match against South Africa on 10 October early next week. Although the loser of the Wembley match is still likely to qualify for the semi-finals, Fulton indicated that he would rather avoid New Zealand by finishing first in the group.

"We beat New Zealand 3-0 in the series this year with a tremendous performance, but if they get their act together they could give either England or Australia a real shake," he said.

The Australian team manager, Geoff Carr, hit back at the criticism from the tournament director, Maurice Lindsay, of the absence of Super League players from the party. "If Maurice wanted to pick our team, he should have written us a letter," he said.

The issues involved in picking the England team for the tournament opener should become a little clearer after this weekend, with the coach, Phil Larder, hoping that Paul Newlove comes safely through a full match for Bradford against Sheffield.

Newlove, who has been suffering from a hamstring strain, said: "I know I have to get through the game before Phil can pick me for Wembley."

Larder will have a close-up view of three England players as the Keighley Cougars side travel to Widnes in what promises to be the best match in the three divisions. Keighley will have Daryl Powell and Nick Pinkney on duty, while Andy Platt continues his World Cup warm-up with Widnes.

Castleford yesterday signed the 32-year-old former Wigan and New Zealand stand-off, Frano Botica, regarded as the best goal-kicker in the world, on a two-year contract. Botica is out of action with a broken leg suffered while playing for the Auckland Warriors, but said that he hoped to be fit by December.

Two of his future team-mates, Adrian Flynn and Colin Maskill, have been suspended for two matches after being cited on video evidence over incidents in Castleford's match against Warrington. The Oldham forward, Jason Temu, will be free to play for the Cook Islands in the Emerging Nations World Cup after being found not guilty of using his elbow.

Doncaster have appointed Peter Regan as their new coach following the departure of Pete Astbury.