Atkins thanks Kear for protecting England hope

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The Independent Online

Ryan Atkins believes that his Wakefield coach, John Kear, safeguarded his England future with an altruistic decision last weekend. Atkins was taken out of the firing line for Sunday's game at Bradford because of a shoulder injury. He could have played, but may then have missed most of this week's training with the international side before the game with France on Saturday.

"I was torn, because I wanted to play for Wakefield as well," Atkins said. Kear, a former England coach himself, did him a favour by taking the decision out of his hands. "He was very understanding," Atkins said. "John knows how much I want to play for my country. It's a brilliant thing for me personally, but also brilliant for Wakefield as a club."

Atkins says that the wide range of clubs represented in the squad is helping the players to gel. "I'd heard all that stuff about two camps, but we've all got really close already," he said.

The 23-year-old centre also made light of filling the boots vacated by Keith Senior, who has retired from Tests. "I've learned a lot from him and I think I play in a similar way; we're both pretty direct and don't mind helping out near our own line as well as at the other end of the field."

England calls are likely to give young players their debuts for clubs this weekend. James Haynes is in line to play full-back for Hull KR against Harlequins, in the absence of Shaun Briscoe and the suspended Ben Cockayne, while the 17-year-old utility back, Jordan Thompson, is in Castleford's squad for the first time.

The coach of France, Bobbie Goulding, has been hit by the withdrawals of three of his more experienced players through injury. The forwards, Olivier Elima and David Ferriol, and the winger, Cyril Stacul, all pulled out yesterday.

On top of the absence of several other players, Goulding admitted that the latest injuries stacked the odds against him in his first match in charge. "It's going to be very tough, but, after the disrupted start with this news, we've trained really well today," he said. "We're very confident and we're going to give it a real crack."

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