Kemble to pay price if Kiwis lose series

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The Independent Online

The Kiwi coach Gary Kemble must hope tonight that a return to familiar surroundings will bring him a change of luck. Kemble's first two matches in charge have brought a thrashing by Australia and a defeat by Great Britain in last week's first Test.

If Tony Smith's side goes on to win the series this evening, it will almost certainly cost Kemble his job and several of his players their chance of representing their country in next year's World Cup. "It's desperate times for everyone concerned," said Kemble, who had eight seasons as the most composed and classy of full-backs for Hull, admittedly not at tonight's venue at the KC Stadium but down the road at the Boulevard. "We just have to give it our best."

The Kiwis will not be helped by the enforced change that pushes Shontayne Hape out to the wing, but they have become used to injury problems before and during this series. "It hasn't been a good tour, because we haven't been able to keep 17 players healthy," said their captain, Roy Asotasi, who was outstanding in defeat at Huddersfield last Saturday.

Even in a losing cause Asotasi was arguably the best player on the field last week and he is one reason why it is foolish to write off New Zealand in the way that some have been doing this week. Even in their depleted state, they have potentially destructive players like Asotasi and Fuifui Moimoi.

The British coach can certainly not be accused of complacency. Terry Newton did not have a terrible game at Huddersfield, but he fell short of the level Smith expected of him and he has gone. Smith has been hinting for some time about how highly he regarded Jon Clarke and he has proved it by giving him his first cap at the age of 28, nine years after he captained the Great Britain Academy side.

Clarke's inclusion will warm the hearts of many club stalwarts who fear that they have missed the boat for Test selection. The message behind his selection is that, if your form is good enough, surprising things can happen, even late in your career. "I'm just trying to balance my emotions and not get too excited," Clarke said.

Widnes have been rescued by local businessman Steve O'Connor, whose bid for the club's assets has been accepted by the administrator running it. Another of its playing assets has left with Mick Cassidy signing a one year contract with Barrow.<

Two former Wakefield players, Nigel Wright and Francis Stephenson, are returning to the club in a managerial reshuffle. Wright has been appointed assistant to Paul Broadbent, who is now the first team coach, and Stephenson becomes general manager. John Kear is now head coach and has a seat on the board.

Teams for today's second Test (KC Stadium, Hull, 6.15pm, Sky Sports 2): Great Britain: P Wellens (St Helens), A Gardner (St Helens), K Senior (Leeds), M Gleeson (Warrington), G Raynor (Hull), L Pryce (St Helens), R Burrow (Leeds), A Morley (Warrington), J Clarke (Warrington), J Peacock (Leeds, capt), G Ellis (Leeds), S O'Loughlin (Wigan), K Sinfield (Leeds). Substitutes: M Fa'asavalu (St Helens), J Graham (St Helens), S Burgess (Bradford), D McGuire (Leeds).

New Zealand: S Perrett (Sydney Roosters), S Hape (Bradford), C Toopi (Leeds), P Whatuira (Huddersfield), T Tuiaki (Wests Tigers), L Hohaia (NZ Warriors), T Leuluai (Wigan), R Asotasi (South Sydney, capt), D Halatau (Wests Tigers), F Moimoi (Parramatta), S Mannering (NZ Warriors), F Pritchard (Penrith), J Smith (Melbourne). Substitutes: G Eastwood (Brisbane), L Anderson (Warrington), S Rapira (NZ Warriors), D Faiumu (North Queensland).

Referee: T Archer (Australia).