Briers: Wales can shock England
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 29 October 2011
Wales captain Lee Briers believes there is a widespread misconception about the Four Nations, which begins this weekend. "It's the Four Nations, not the Three Nations like people seem to think," said the Warrington stand-off, who captains Wales against England at Leigh this afternoon. "We are massive underdogs, but we aren't here just to make up the numbers."
Wales clinched their place with a shock win over France a year ago. Now that their day of reckoning has arrived, their task looks a formidable one.
Briers and Ian Watson, the half-back combination which famously embarrassed Australia for an hour in the 2000 World Cup, are now 33 and 34 respectively. Briers said, however, that they might have one last surprise up their sleeves. "Nobody's expecting anything from us, so there's no pressure."
Briers' exploits for the country for which he qualifies through a grandmother from Flint have been a consolation prize for the Great Britain career he never had. One of the most creative players in the game for almost a decade and a half, a succession of national coaches have mistrusted his maverick tendencies. He even retired from playing for Wales before being persuaded back into the fold.
"People have been telling me for years that I should be playing for Great Britain, but I'm a great believer in fate and I think that the times I've had with Wales have been a reward for my loyalty to them," he said.
Briers' form for Warrington over the past couple of years is often attributed to the greater discipline he has acquired under the coaching of Tony Smith. He would not disagree with that, but says that the popular image of him as a loose cannon was always wide of the mark.
"He's come in and given me a new lease of life. The idea that I lacked discipline was always just an outside perception, but Tony has given me a new confidence." Briers will face two of his more destructive Warrington team-mates in Ben Westwood and Adrian Morley and knows that, as the main Welsh playmaker, he will be a legitimate target for their attentions. "But maybe it will be me battering them," he said with a grin.
If he is to have another day to remember in the red of Wales, Briers will need a huge effort from some relatively inexperienced forwards. Gil Dudson and Ben Flower are earmarked for Wigan, which is some indication of their potential. Lloyd White will be in Super League with Widnes and has the makings of a top-flight player, while the Australia-born Tyson Frizell made a promising debut against Ireland.
It should not add up to enough to prevent England getting off to a winning start, probably by a handsome margin, but Steve McNamara will want to see a less uneven performance than the one in France last Friday.
In particular, he will be looking for Rangi Chase to sustain his efforts for the full 80 minutes and to form a dominant partnership with Kevin Sinfield. If he fails to do that, Briers is waiting in the wings to run the show. It might be too much to expect Wales to win, but they could make it awkward.
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