Blow for Britain's final prospects as Kiwis allow Jones another last hurrah

Click to follow

The Kiwis had suggested all week that they would not be bringing their outstanding scrum-half back from France and out of international retirement for the third time in two months.

When the 19-man squad for tonight's battle at Huddersfield was named, however, Jones was in it. The temptation was just too strong - for New Zealand and for him.

Jones initially returned to the Test arena just for the two matches against Australia in the southern hemisphere. With his logical replacement in the No7 shirt, Thomas Leuluai, still injured, he continued his comeback at Loftus Road, leading the Kiwis to a convincing victory over Great Britain.

Now, with the other contender, Lance Hohaia, ruled out, Jones is to have another last hurrah. For a lesser player, all this coming and going might seem a bad risk.

"Stacey is the ultimate professional," said his coach, Brian McClennan. "He's been hopping on and off planes for the last few weeks but he hasn't shown any signs of tiredness or anything. He just gets on with the job and does what he has to do."

One thing that does seem certain is that, if New Zealand avoid a defeat by 24 points or more and qualify for the final in two weeks' time, Jones will not be with them for that.

He is booked to fly to New Zealand on 19 November to be with his wife for the birth of their child and asking him to miss that is one request the Kiwis will not put to him.

"We totally support Stacey being with his wife and family at this special time," McClennan said.

Jones' return makes it all the more crucial that Brian Noble gets Britain's half-back pairing right at the Galpharm Stadium. For the first time in the Tri-Nations, he has included Hull's Richard Horne in his squad and it would be a waste not to use him.

Whether that should be in place of Paul Deacon or of Iestyn Harris - still waiting for his impending fatherhood - is another question and a far more difficult one. Fundamentally, Noble is in the same position as the rest of us. He started the tournament without a definite answer to the half-back conundrum and could end it without one.

Great Britain showed a big improvement on their first Kiwi defeat in the match against Australia last week and they know that the same degree of improvement today could see them to a victory that would keep their hopes alive.

Tonight, they need to sustain the same effort that saw them edge the Kangaroos in the forwards, with players like Adrian Morley and Stuart Fielden in top form. "Stuart was outstanding," said Morley. "To play close to 80 minutes in the front row is quite remarkable."

Even if the British forwards play equally well against a formidable Kiwi pack led by Ruben Wiki and Paul Rauhihi, there remains the problem of turning field position into points.

"We don't need to score on every attack, but we need to finish our sets better," said Brian Carney, whose own strong performance last week mirrored the side's overall improvement.

However, that was said before the news on Jones. His inclusion means that the Kiwis are guaranteed to be sharp and inventive inside the 20 metres - Great Britain must match that or they will resign themselves to being spectators on 26 November.

Great Britain v New Zealand: Tonight's line-ups at Huddersfield

Great Britain

1 Wellens (St Helens)

2 Carney (Wigan)

3 Gleeson (Warrington)

4 Senior (Leeds)

5 Pryce (Bradford)

6 Horne (Hull)

7 Deacon (Bradford)

8 Fielden (Bradford)

9 Cunningham (St Helens)

10 Morley (Sydney)

11 Peacock (Bradford, capt)

12 Johnson (Bradford)

13 Sinfield (Leeds)

REPLACEMENTS: Walker (Leeds), Thackray (Hull), Ellis (Leeds), Higham (St Helens)

New Zealand

1 Webb (NZ Warriors)

2 Webster (Melbourne)

3 Whatuira (Wests Tigers)

4 Toopi (NZ Warriors)

5 Vatuvei (NZ Warriors)

6 Vagana (Cronulla)

7 Jones (NZ Warriors)

8 Rauhihi (Nth Queensland)

9 Tony (Hull)

10 Wiki (NZ Warriors, capt)

11 Kidwell (Melbourne)

12 Solomona (Wakefield)

13 Anderson (NZ Warriors)

REPLACEMENTS: Faiumu (North Queensland), Asotasi (Canterbury), Lauitiiti (Leeds), Guttenbeil (NZ Warriors)

Comments