Briers back and ready for another Welsh shock
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Saturday 22 October 2011
Wales start on the second leg of an improbable journey today when they face Ireland in Neath.
A year ago, the Welsh created a major shock when they beat France to take the final place in this year's Four Nations. Today's game is their one warm-up before meeting England next weekend.
"Last year nobody expected us to go to France and win," said the Wales coach, Iestyn Harris. "This year is the same and there is no pressure on us whatsoever."
Harris intends to use as many of his Four Nations squad as possible today, including the potential new caps Peter Lupton, Matt Seamark and Tyson Frizell. More importantly, he has his captain Lee Briers available after missing the clincher in France a year ago. Gareth Thomas, who stood in as captain that day, is also fit to play after recovering from his broken arm.
It was a much-changed Ireland team that lost to Scotland in Glasgow last weekend, with several of the eight new caps from the Irish domestic competition. "The domestic lads were really good and showed they can cope with this level of competition," said the new Ireland coach, Mark Aston.
He makes more changes today, with the return of Sheffield Eagles' winger, Tim Bergin, from suspension and the Leeds prop Luke Ambler from injury. Ambler replaces a Leeds team-mate, Kyle Amor, who is instead captaining Cumbria against England's second string, the Knights, at Whitehaven.
Cash-crisis club Leigh have avoided a winding-up petition in the High Court. The club says that with money advanced from the RFL they can now meet their commitments.
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