Carney ready to tackle trouble head on

New-look Britain go into Tri-Nations confident of their ability to match Australia and NZ
Click to follow
The Independent Online

"There was a lot of quality on show," he says of those two breathtaking contests. "What it proved was that, if you switch off at all, you can find yourself a fair few points down." New Zealand were guilty of that for periods of both matches, but Carney still says they will be hugely dangerous at Loftus Road on Saturday, when Great Britain begin their campaign.

"Although New Zealand have got a few missing, they've got some seasoned players, and they're bound to have a bit of a spring in their stride. That first result was great for the Tri-Nations, but it probably makes it tougher for everyone."

Carney, who emerged from the obscurity of the Irish Students side seven years ago to play with distinction for Gateshead, Hull and Wigan, was effectively Great Britain's leader for a couple of days in Spain. The squad's captain, Jamie Peacock, delayed his departure to have treatment for the two injuries - to knee and groin - which he defied in leading Bradford to victory in the Super League Grand Final last week.

His country, as well as his club, will need that sort of courage when New Zealand and Australia test their resolve, but for Carney to be named as his No 2 is a notable accolade for the Irishman. Not only does he come from well outside the rugby league mainstream, the honour also comes after two years at Wigan ruined by injuries.

Unlike his club, though, Great Britain have seen him at his best. His combination with Warrington's Martin Gleeson was one of the highlights of last season's Tri-Nations and looked capable of delivering victory in the tournament - until it all fell apart against Australia in the final.

Gleeson has the footwork and the handling skills to give his wing man the chance to get on the outside of a defence, a luxury he has rarely enjoyed at Wigan even when fully fit.

"I do enjoy playing with Martin. I couldn't sing his praises highly enough so I'm bound to be looking forward to that, but it's exciting getting together with players who are new to the squad.

"There's no Paul Sculthorpe, no Andy Farrell and no Sean Long. At one time, losing players of that quality might have you saying, 'Hang on, we could be in a bit of trouble here,' but I think we've got a lot of players now who can step up to the plate.

"I'm looking forward to playing for the first time with guys like Jamie Thackray and Gareth Raynor, while someone like Rob Burrow is an absolute demon to play against. It's their big chance."

Australia also have injury worries, with scrum-half Andrew Johns having scans this week on a troublesome knee before a decision is made about whether he is fit to travel to Britain.

For Carney, the tournament will be a British swansong, as he joins the Newcastle Knights in Australia for a season before joining the new Gold Coast franchise. He has been an unlikely success story over the past seven years since giving up Gaelic football. There could be no better way of taking his leave than by breaching antipodean defences over the next five weeks.

WHAT MAKES ANDREW JOHNS THE VERY BEST

Brain

Johns is the canniest of players, capable of making the coolest of decisions under pressure. That has something to do with exceptional peripheral vision, but also with his general temperament. "He doesn't feel pressure," say his team-mates.

Shoulders

Freakishly strong for a smallish player, there has probably never been a half-back who defends as well as Johns. So reliable is his tackling that it was a cause for wonderment when he missed one or two against New Zealand.

Hands

He has speed and accuracy when he passes the ball, but what is truly remarkable is that Johns can do it in either direction, with no real bias to left or right. That enables him to repeatedly wrong-foot defences by changing the direction of attacks.

Feet

Johns has the complete kicking game - controlled near the tryline or taking his side upfield with long-range kicking. As a place-kicker, he is so good that, even in his short stay with Warrington, he was statistically the best in the UK game.

Comments