Australia announce depleted tour party

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The Independent Online

Australia have named seven uncapped players in an injury-weakened squad for their tour to Britain and France.

Five Penrith players have also forced their way in following their club's surprise victory in the National Rugby League Grand Final - but not their man of the match, Luke Priddis, nor Preston Campbell, who has been outstanding all season at stand-off.

The Brisbane full-back, Darren Lockyer, will captain the Kangaroos in the absence of the injured Andrew Johns and Gorden Tallis, but the squad is light on proven Test quality, particularly in the three-quarters.

The Australian coach, Chris Anderson, admitted that Great Britain, if their key men are fit, will fancy their chances of winning the Ashes for the first time since 1970.

"We are vulnerable," he said. "When they look at our squad, they will definitely think they have a chance." The Great Britain coach, David Waite, said, however, that Australia remained hot favourites.

Before Australia leave for the tour, they travel to New Zealand on 18 October, with the Kiwis also fielding a below-strength squad.

Injuries and the unavailability of Robbie Paul, who will be playing for Bradford - broken arm permitting - in the Super League Grand Final that day, mean that they are short of half-backs, with 18-year-old Thomas Leuluai the only specialist.

Wigan's New Zealand prop, Craig Smith, is clear to play in Friday's Super League final eliminator at Leeds. He has been sent a letter warning him about his running style after his knee struck John Stankevitch's ribs in the game with St Helens last weekend.

Leeds fear that Ryan Bailey will not be released from a young offenders' institition and cleared to rejoin the squad in time for Friday's game, but Barrie McDermott should recover from an ankle injury and Kevin Sinfield has been told he has no case to answer after being put on report for a suspected high tackle.

Promoted Salford hope to announce up to six new signings by the end of this week.