Lions wary of stormy response from Kiwis

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The Independent Online

Following last weekend's heroic victory over Australia in Sydney, Great Britain must do what they have not managed since 1992 by winning back-to-back major Tests in the southern hemisphere to guarantee themselves a place in the final of the Tri-Nations. Victory over the Kiwis in Wellington early tomorrow morning will make next Saturday's game against the hosts in Brisbane a formality, with an Ashes final in Sydney already confirmed for a week later.

"A lot of teams have come here and won one game. We've got to win two to reach the final," said the British captain Jamie Peacock before his coach Brian Noble added: "We're really delighted that we've got a win up against Australia on their own soil, but we've got some more to do and I think everybody recognises that.

"I'd feel a whole lot better if we beat the Kiwis and the Australians again, and get to the final and win that. It's a one-Test victory, but it's a 'W', which you're always pleased with, and it's a 'W' against the old enemy."

In all likelihood they will be looking for another "W" with the help of Brian Carney, who is all but fully recovered from a hamstring injury.

"He's 99 per cent certain," said Noble, who has the contingency plan of moving Leon Pryce back on to the wing with Danny McGuire coming in at stand-off if there are any misgivings about the Irishman.

Noble expects the Kiwis to react strongly to their recent adversity, particularly the loss of their two points from the Christchurch meeting between the two countries because of Nathan Fien's ineligibility.

"The Kiwis will be thinking, 'These Pommie bums aren't going through to our final'," Noble said. "I think they'll play with a bit more ball movement. They've got some strong, powerful players with good footwork, but we've got some physical attributes to cope with that."

Noble admits to being surprised by the omission of Jason Cayless, a major influence in the all-powerful St Helens pack last season. The continuing strength of Kiwi forward resources is illustrated by the younger Cayless brother not even commanding a place on the bench.

"It's a bit of a surprise," Noble said. "But there are some other people who've shown in the NRL that they're pretty good players as well."

Noble will, however, renew his acquaintance with another British-based player, Shontayne Hape, whom he brought to Bradford as a 19-year-old, playing on the right wing for the Kiwis tomorrow. "The danger he brings is that he is a world-class player. He's been doing it for Bradford for three or four years and he came to us as a winger," Noble said.

The other danger to Great Britain is that they have not fully got last week's win over Australia out of their systems - a problem that has afflicted previous British teams when they have won a game in this part of the world. As you would expect, the Lions celebrated long and hard at the weekend, but it has been business as usual since Monday.

"Last week has been put to bed. We had a few beers at the weekend but that's it," said Peacock, who has cut a steadily more impressive figure as captain on this tour, both on and off the field.

If he is one key figure, then so is Sean Long, who will be faced with a much more wily opponent in Stacey Jones than Australia's debutant last week, Ben Hornby. "They've gone at each other all year in Super League," Noble said of tomorrow's adversaries. "The thing that really pleases me about Sean Long is that he's finally done it on the international stage. He's shown the kind of thing he can do when he's given responsibility."

Great Britain arrived in Wellington to weather which Noble described as "more like Blackpool than Bondi."

The New Zealand capital's notorious wind promises to make the game something of a lottery under the high kick and it could be close enough to be decided by one mistake in that situation.

Teams for Wellington

Great Britain

1 Wellens (St Helens)

2 Carney (Newcastle)

3 Senior (Leeds)

4 Yeaman (Hull)

5 Raynor (Hull)

6 Pryce (St Helens)

7 Long (St Helens)

8 Fielden (Wigan)

9 Newton (Bradford)

10 Peacock (capt, Leeds)

11 Ellis (Leeds)

12 Hock (Wigan)

13 O'Loughlin (Wigan)


Roby (St Helens), Morley (Sydney), Gilmour (St Helens), Wilkin (St Helens), McGuire (Leeds)

New Zealand

1 Brent Webb

2 Shontayne Hape

3 Iosia Soliola

4 Steve Matai

5 Manu Vatuvei

6 Nigel Vagana

7 Stacey Jones

8 David Fa'alogo

9 Simon Mannering

10 David Kidwell

11 Roy Asotasi

12 Dene Halatau

13 Ruben Wiki (capt)


Motu Tony, Nathan Cayless, Adam Blair, Frank Pritchard

Kick-off: 7.0am. TV: Sky Sports 2