Final chance for Noble men to deliver

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The Independent Online

They will have to improve dramatically on their display against New Zealand last Saturday. The good news is that they have a far better balanced team with which to do so.

Iestyn Harris and Paul Deacon would not be everyone's choice at half-back, but they were the form pairing at club level during the second half of the season and their mutual understanding should not be in doubt.

It also makes more sense in the pack to start with Adrian Morley - a forward of whom the Kangaroos are wary - and to get more game time out of Jamie Peacock in the second row. Kevin Sinfield should also be more comfortable at loose forward.

That essential commodity in the modern game - impact off the bench - should also be there in more abundance. Jamie Thackray is so eager to get involved that he has had to be held back in training and, on his form for Hull, is the ideal man to lift a team with an explosive run when he is finally unleashed.

Mick Higham will also add an extra dimension, whether he comes into the action as a rotation hooker or as a replacement half-back.

It will all be worth nothing if Great Britain commit the crass defensive errors that they did at Loftus Road, but Brian Noble is surely right to give Brian Carney the opportunity to redeem himself. Some players - and there have been a couple of examples in recent years - would have been so psychologically damaged by the string of errors he made that there would have been no choice but to take them out of the firing line.

The British management believe that Carney is made of sterner stuff than that, although it is inevitable that he will be tested out in what are sure to be difficult conditions at the JJB Stadium.

Australia are a very different team from the one who annihilated Great Britain in the Tri-Nations final at Elland Road last year, playing a brand of rugby that was close to irresistible.

In particular, they have a completely new three-quarter line. If the NRL did not produce such a steady stream of outstanding players, that might be a concern; as it is, it merely means that Great Britain will face a freakish talent like Mark Gasnier for the first time,

His is a surname that should trigger an anxious folk-memory. Forty-two years ago, almost to the day, his uncle Reg scored two tries in one of his finest Test performances, a 50-12 victory at nearby Swinton.

His nephew does not yet enjoy the same legendary status, but his combination of size, speed and a huge side-step means he is a formidable proposition.

His immediate opponent, Keith Senior, came safely through his first game since August at Loftus Road. He will be better for that run-out and he will need to be, because the contest between those two centres is one that could go a long way towards deciding a crucial game for Great Britain.

Probable teams at the JJB Stadium tonight

Great Britain

1 Wellens (St Helens)

2 Carney (Wigan)

3 Gleeson (Warrington)

4 Senior (Leeds)

5 Pryce (Bradford)

6 Harris (Bradford)

7 Deacon (Bradford)

8 Fielden (Bradford)

9 Cunningham (St Helens)

10 Morley (Sydney)

11 Peacock (Bradford, capt)

12 Johnson (Bradford)

13 Sinfield (Leeds)

SUBSTITUTES: Higham (St Helens), Thackray (Hull), Walker, Ellis (both Leeds).


1 Minichiello (Sydney)

2 King (Melbourne)

3 Gasnier (St George)

4 Cooper (St George)

5 Tate (Brisbane)

6 Lockyer (Brisbane, capt)

7 Prince (Wests Tigers)

8 Civoniceva (Brisbane)

9 Buderus (Newcastle)

10 Price (NZ Warriors)

11 O'Donnell (N Queensland)

12 Fitzgibbon (Sydney)

13 Kennedy (Manly)

SUBSTITUTES: Barrett, Ryles (both St George), O'Meley, Mason (both Canterbury)

Referee: T Mander (Aus)

Kick-off: 6.15pm (Sky Sports 1)