Leeds pair opt for way of the Welsh dragon

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The Independent Online

Wales will face the challenge of this autumn's World Cup with just one native-born player, and one borrowed from rugby union, but with a new depth of rugby league know-how.

Wales will face the challenge of this autumn's World Cup with just one native-born player, and one borrowed from rugby union, but with a new depth of rugby league know-how.

The squad announced in Cardiff yesterday to meet New Zealand, the Cook Islands and the Lebanon in the group stages of the tournament will be largely composed of English-born players, but their coach, Clive Griffiths, treading the sacred turf of Welsh rugby union yesterday for the first time since he went north in 1979, denied that would be a handicap.

"Anyone who doubts the passion of the first and second generation lads should stick their heads around the dressing-room door when they get together," he said. "Compared with 1995 this team might lack the big names from rugby union, but there is a lot of rugby league nous about it."

That vital element can only be strengthened by the inclusion of newcomers such as the Leeds pair of Anthony Farrell and Paul Sterling and Salford's versatile Australian back, Kris Tassell.

Farrell and Sterling have played for England in the past and would have been fringe candidates for John Kear's squad. "I was unsure which way to go until last week, but Iestyn Harris had been talking to us about it and I'd made him a promise," said Farrell, whose grandfather was born in Cardiff.

Tassell had already researched his Welsh roots for his visa application when he came to Salford at the start of this season: "My granddad emigrated from Pontypridd to Brisbane and this was just too good an opportunity to pass up," he said as he surveyed the Millennium Stadium where Wales will play the Kiwis in the pivotal match of the group stage on 5 November.

The only Welsh-born player in the squad is St Helen's reserve forward Gareth Price, while Jason Critchley, back at Leicester after a brief return to league with Wakefield, is the only rugby union player to be released.

That makes it a very different looking side from 1995, when Wales reached the semi-finals with a team laced with returning heroes. The presence in the lift at the Millennium Stadium of Scott Quinnell was a reminder of the very different resources available then.

Wigan have lined up Jason Temu, the former Oldham and Hull prop who will play for the Cook Islands in the World Cup, as a potential replacement for Neil Cowie, named yesterday as the Welsh vice-captain, if he refuses a new contract offer at the club. Temu, who is expected to be off the overseas quota after playing for five seasons in his previous stay in Britain, left Hull to play for the Newcastle Knights in Australia.

Workington are facing local criticism after changing their name to the Cumbria Crusaders from next season.

The Department of Employment has confirmed that only Australian coaches who have coached at first-grade level will qualify for work permits in future - a ruling that will make a dramatic difference to the current recruitment practices of Super League clubs where all 12 clubs have overseas coaches.

WALES WORLD CUP SQUAD: Atcheson (St Helens), Briers (Warrington), Busby (Warrington), Carvell (Hull), Cowie (Wigan), Critchley (Leicester RU), Cunningham (St Helens), Davies (Wigan), Eaton (Dewsbury), Farrell (Leeds), Gibson (Halifax), Hammond (Widnes), Harris (Leeds, capt), Highton (Salford), Jenkins (Hull), Morgan (Canberra), Morley (Sheffield), Price (St Helens), Smith (St Helens), Sterling (Leeds), Sullivan (St Helens), Tassell (Salford), Watson (Widnes), Whittle (Leigh).

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