Langer has chance to avenge a Bulls battering

Warrington's captain intends exorcising ghosts of a painful defeat
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The Independent Online

Allan Langer has experienced crises before in his distinguished rugby league career. The good thing about this one is that he has the chance to do something about it. Langer was part of the Warrington side not merely beaten by Bradford on Sunday, but thoroughly humiliated. This Saturday, they have the daunting task of playing the Bulls again in the semi-final of the Silk Cut Challenge Cup.

"It was the worst beating I've had," said Langer, whose times with Brisbane Broncos, Queensland and Australia brought him far more success than failure. "But at least we've got the chance this week to do something about it."

Whether Warrington can recover sufficiently to seize that chance remains to be seen at Headingley in four days' time, but at least the chance exists. Not so for Langer when he suffered the two major disappointments of his career.

The one blemish on that career - and the one that tempted him out of retirement to play in England - was the way that on two successive Kangaroo tours in the 1990s he played in an Australian side beaten in the first Test by Great Britain and was promptly dropped.

"I didn't have the chance to do anything to put that right, but this time there's the chance to get something out of it," he said.

The other difference, though, is that in neither case were Australia flogged 58-4 as Warrington were at Odsal and Langer takes his share of responsibility for the scale of the defeat. "We haven't played a top side so far this season before Bradford and I knew it was going to be tough, but I wasn't happy with my own game. I've got a lot to work on there as well as on the team's efforts."

In his glittering career with the Brisbane Broncos, the closest thing Langer can remember to Sunday's embarrassment was the heavy beating they took from Melbourne early last season. "It was a similar thing," he said. "They just steamrollered us. I've a bad memory. I can't remember who we played the week after."

In fact, Brisbane faced Melbourne again a month later and lost once more, which does not seem the most helpful of precedents. "But this is a different game. We've just got to start over again."

Warrington will, though, face many of the same problems, particularly in Langer's own area of influence. How Warrington counteract the threat of the Paul brothers, Henry and Robbie, at half-back will be major factor. Langer has played against the pair at Test level and, unlike some Australians, has been a long-term admirer of their unpredictable brand of rugby.

"They've got a great understanding and they're playing some very good football," he says. "They wouldn't be out of place in the Australian competition. It would be good for them and good for the Australian game for them to play there."

Good for Warrington, perhaps, if they were to go off and play there before Saturday, although Langer and his team-mates must strive to accentuate the positive between now and then. "The people I was most disappointed for at Odsal were the fans who went there with us," he said. "Their support has been great so far and felt sorry for them, the way we let them down. It was a very quiet bus trip home."

It would be even quieter if Warrington cannot show a dramatic improvement at Headingley. "They gave us a football lesson on Sunday," Langer said. "It's left it as a tough ask for us, but we've still got a good football team here."

On a personal level, Langer, after a rough ride at Salford against Martin Crompton in the last round and an afternoon spent chasing shadows at Odsal, has to prove that he still has what it takes. It is a question which has been asked of him before: whether he can provide the answer will be seen on Saturday.