Fa'asavalu beefs up British options by making switch

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St Helens' intimidating forward Maurie Fa'asavalu wants to become the first Samoan-born player to represent Great Britain.

Fa'asavalu qualifies through living in this country since playing for Samoa in the 2003 rugby union World Cup.

"St Helens and England have been the birthplace of my rugby league," he said yesterday. "We now class St Helens and this country as our home and it would be a great privilege to show my thanks towards those who have made myself and my family feel so welcome by playing for Great Britain.

"It would be an honour to pull on the Lions' jersey," he added, "and if I got that opportunity as soon as this autumn's Test series against New Zealand then I would be delighted."

The Great Britain coach, Tony Smith, himself an Australian, does not rule out turning to Fa'asavalu, who has been a highly effective contributor, usually from the bench, to Saints' recent success.

"I'm aware of Maurie's change of status and he will be considered along with all the other players who are eligible to play for Great Britain," he said.

The South African-born David Barends played twice for Great Britain in 1979, but since then Australian-born but British qualified players like Phil McKenzie and Michael Withers have not been called up when they made themselves available.

Either Castleford or Widnes will move to within one victory of reaching the Super League tonight. The winner of their play-off game at The Jungle will go straight into the National League One Grand Final at Headingley next month, while the loser gets a second chance next week.

Terry Matterson, the Castleford coach, said: "Both Steve McCormack [the Widnes coach] and myself will want to get the job done at the first possible opportunity."

The two teams have been a class apart from the rest of National League One all season, losing only three matches between them, with Castleford topping the table by one point.