Kear needs to guard against falling into Irish tactical trap

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The Independent Online

The Lincoln World Cup could burst into life this weekend, with the real prospect of two results that would have been regarded before the tournament began as major upsets.

The Lincoln World Cup could burst into life this weekend, with the real prospect of two results that would have been regarded before the tournament began as major upsets.

England know that, if they get it wrong, they could lose their semi-final against Ireland at Headingley this evening, while Wales are in serious danger against Papua New Guinea at Widnes tomorrow.

The tussle at Leeds has had an intriguing build-up, with the Irish working hard at building up a sense of grievance over their perceived status as interlopers. The England coach, John Kear, had his tongue firmly in his cheek when he described it as "very clever psychology, very subtle psychology, no doubt devised by a professor of psychology."

The English captain, Andy Farrell, was similarly dismissive. "I think it's laughable," he said. "It will have no effect at all when we get on to the field."

England must guard against being drawn into playing the game on Irish terms. Ireland are a conservative, tightly-organised side who would love to reduce the game to a forward battle, from which Tommy Martyn - if fit to play - can pick up the scraps. England need a more open pattern of play, but while Ireland sweat on Martyn and Michael Eagar, it would be a brave man who would predict the exact line-up with which Kear will attempt to achieve it.

First of all, he must decide whether to shift Kris Radlinski or Paul Wellens to full-back and then what to do with his back-line in the absence of one of them. Then he must decide his half-back combination, and how much he can reasonably expect from Adrian Morley in the pack. This adds up to a lot of questions to be carrying into a match of this sort.

Wales will have watched Papua New Guinea's form in this tournament with increasing concern. The Kumuls - historically bad travellers - have won three on the trot in France and their confidence is high.

"I think they're really worried about our blokes and how tough they're going to be," said the PNG coach, Bob Bennett, the durability of whose squad is shown by his ability to name an unchanged team.

A series of injuries has made Wales desperate enough to bring old-stagers like John Devereux and Paul Morriarty back into rugby league for the occasion. They will be even more desperate for Keiron Cunningam to be fit and for Iestyn Harris to take charge.

The other two games of the weekend are, on the face of it, much easier to predict. In today's other match, nobody in the game expects Samoa to beat Australia, but the signs are they will give it their best shot.

The Samoa coach Darrell Williams believes that the world champions can not be beaten by a conservative approach. "We'll play a very expansive game. We'll throw the ball around a lot," he predicted. "It's fraught with danger, but these guys are grown men and they have to take some responsibility. They have to back themselves."

Australia field what is notionally their strongest side, the one that beat England in their opening match two weeks ago, with Darren Britt fit to return to duty on the bench.

The World Cup has been good news for France so far, but they will find themselves out of their depth against the daunting physical power of New Zealand at Castleford tomorrow.

* Bradford have released their Australian forward, Hudson Smith, one year into a three-year contract, clearing the way for the signing of the New Zealand prop, Joe Vagana, and Sydney City's Shane Rigon.

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