Joynt back with an Ashes reminder

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The Independent Online

It is always dangerous to deduce too much from British rugby league performances, good or bad, against the French. That is why it would be futile to read too much into either the clinical opening stages or the messier spectacle that came later in the victory at Agen on Friday night.

It is always dangerous to deduce too much from British rugby league performances, good or bad, against the French. That is why it would be futile to read too much into either the clinical opening stages or the messier spectacle that came later in the victory at Agen on Friday night.

Great Britain won their only match before the arrival of Australia next month for the three-Test Ashes series by the decisive enough margin or 42–12, but most of their best work was done in the first 10 minutes, which left the rest of the evening as something of an anti-climax.

"It's difficult when you score four tries in the first 10 minutes,'' said the Great Britain's man of the match, Chris Joynt. "You think you can do anything and start throwing the ball all over the place."

The St Helens captain was one of Britain's obvious successes – he looked a different player from the battle-weary veteran who finished the domestic season with his club. "I've had three weeks off,'' he explained. "It's the first time in two years I've had that and I desperately needed it.''

Joynt's two tries, the clever pass he gave for another and the quality of his combination with Gary Connolly on the left side of the field will have pushed him closer to the front of coach David Waite's mind for the Ashes. He might not have started out as a prime contender for a second-row spot, but the likely absence of Adrian Morley, whose arm X-rays are being studied by his Australian club, Sydney City Roosters, could yet make him a key player.

"I've had a 10-year Great Britain career, a lot of which has been a low patch for the team,'' he said. "It means a lot to me to get another chance now and I've got to take it because maybe time is running out for me.''

The same could be said for Connolly, who also did enough to confirm his importance to Great Britain in the series, while none of the four prop forwards on the show did his claims any harm.

Kevin Sinfield, playing hooker in a competitive match for the first time, coped well with the technicalities of dummy half, although he remains bemused over why he has been asked to do the job. It could be what Waite genuinely sees him performing that role against Australia, or it could be merely to pull the wool over their eyes.

Despite those successes, the British display still lost impetus far too early and Waite will have noticed some glaring failings in both attack and defence. His opposite number, the French coach, Gilles Dumas, was damning in his assessment of Great Britain's chances, predicting that they will lose the First Test by 50 points.

If that is the case, it might be just as well that Australia are not meeting France on this trip, but in many ways this was a good night for French rugby league. Simply to play the game in Agen, a rugby union stronghold and the power base of Albert Ferrasse, former French rugby union president and the most implacable enemy of rugby league, was a symbolic gesture.

Ferrasse did his best to prevent the game going ahead and then urged rugby lovers to boycott it. For almost 10,000 to turn out was a huge boost to the morale of the game in France and a sign that the beneficial effects of the World Cup – which drew big crowds in France if not in Britain – have not yet worn off.

And yet the relative weakness of the French side, with so many first-choice players having decamped to rugby union, shows that the game there needs a focus.

A Super League team based in Toulouse would fulfil that function, but the organisation would need a substantial change of philosophy before it sees the benefits of that.

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