Betts placed for Peacock

Dave Hadfield looks forward to clash of young Bull and Wigan veteran
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The Independent Online

Among the many attractions of a match this evening that could decide who finishes top of the Super League table is a chance to compare English rugby league's best second-rower of his generation with the player who could be his natural successor.

Among the many attractions of a match this evening that could decide who finishes top of the Super League table is a chance to compare English rugby league's best second-rower of his generation with the player who could be his natural successor.

Coming up for 31, Denis Betts is not ready to be pensioned off yet - indeed, he has two years left on his Wigan contract after the end of this season - but Bradford's Jamie Peacock can give him the best part of a decade and has most of the highlights of his career ahead of him.

"He's been outstanding for them this year," says Betts of his young rival. "Bradford seem to breed these big, robust forwards. He's got all the things you look for in a back-row forward these days. He's got great strength, he's good on his feet and very athletic - and he's about 6ft 4ft tall. He must have had a fantastic off-season, because he has come on so much this year."

With a win at Odsal and a draw at the JJB Stadium so far this season, Wigan have no reason to be scared of the forward power with which the Bulls can intimidate other sides. In Peacock, however, Bradford have a second-row forward of the type who can win a game with a defence-busting break, just as Betts did in his younger days, with a talent he has rediscovered this year.

With the older player putting himself out of the equation for England's campaign in the Lincoln World Cup this autumn, the incentive is there for Peacock to earn himself a place in John Kear's starting line-up. Betts believes he has the potential to do just that, but warns that he faces serious competition.

A fit Adrian Morley would be an automatic selection and, if Andrew Farrell plays loose forward rather than the stand-off berth he has filled for part of the season for Wigan, that leaves just one vacancy.

"Peacock is an obvious candidate, but Paul Sculthorpe at St Helens is a fantastic back-rower and he has been in terrific form since Ian Millward arrived as coach," says Betts, who also believes that one of his Wigan team-mates is capable of staking a claim.

Simon Haughton is fit again after a 10-week lay-off with a foot injury, and has been under consideration for this evening's match. "If Simon gets fit and puts in some strong performances, he would have to be a contender," says Betts, "but if Peacock is the one who gets the chance in the World Cup, I think he could be a stand-out. I've a lot of time for him and the way he plays the game."

Naturally, Betts and his colleagues will hope that Peacock is a little below his best tonight, when a new ground- record crowd at the JJB is expected to watch the latest in a compelling series of clashes between the two sides - a series that will continue into the play-offs.

Some might argue that meeting each other three times in the league, followed by the prospect of another show-down in the end-of-season deciders, represents too much of a good thing, but Betts rejects that notion.

"There is a certain familiarity between us, I agree, but these are the type of games you want to play in every week," he says.

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