Morley determined to make amends for his rush of blood

Forward sets out to atone for dismissal and help avenge first Test defeat to Australia
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The Independent Online

The second tackle Great Britain's Adrian Morley will make in this Test series will be awaited with more bated breath than any in the history of the Ashes.

Some time shortly after 6.15 this evening, Morley will get an Australian in his sights, run in intending to smash him but, this time, to stay on the pitch.

The reverberations of his first tackle - the one on Robbie Kearns for which he was sent off after 12 seconds last Saturday - have echoed all through the intervening week, with the Aussies adamant that, at the very least, he should have been banned for this match.

Morley himself has wisely tried to keep his head down - much as Kearns tried to do at Wigan when he saw him approaching - but there has been no shortage of people willing to defend him.

Despite his intimidating style of play, team-mates and opponents - he visited his mates in the Aussie camp this week - are agreed on one thing: there is no malice about him, just an occasional loss of control which can have dramatic consequences.

Nobody winced more painfully at last Saturday's events than the man who first taught him his rugby league, John Bartlett, then a teacher at Mt Carmel School in Salford.

"I'd set the video, because I knew I had to go out and I could only see the first few minutes. Unfortunately, I saw everything I needed to see," he says.

Bartlett first came into contact with Morley as an 11-year-old, but it was not immediately apparent that he was going to be the success in the game that he has been.

"His brother, Chris, was a more influential player at that age. Adrian wasn't even particularly big. He was strong for his size, but not particularly well-built. For five years, we did a lot of athletics and he never even ran in the relay team. You see that big, loping stride now and wonder how that could be."

Bartlett was part of the National Coaching Scheme, run at that time by Phil Larder - now with England's rugby union side. "His gospel was that you should coach skills to the big kids and that's what we did with Adrian. He was fantastic to coach, because he was like a sponge."

Morley made an impression elsewhere on the curriculum as well. "He was a big, tough Salford lad, but every teacher loved him. He was such an absolute gentleman."

That is an assessment that might surprise opponents in Britain and Australia who have been on the receiving end of his tackles, but it is one that is borne out by the way he stays in touch with his old school and old teachers, especially Bartlett, even though he now lives on the other side of the world in Sydney.

"That's why it's very hard for me to see him hitting people and getting sent off," he says. "I put it down to technique, which I thought they'd managed to solve in Australia. On his performance in their Grand Final, I thought he was the complete back-rower."

So what would he be saying to him, if he was still his teacher and coach, before today's game? "He needs to stay in control. He needs to stay disciplined, because he's no good to us off the park. In the big games I've seen from him at Sydney, he's played the full 80 minutes or something very close to it and I think that's what we need in this one. And I don't think there's any need to give players the challenge that their first hit has got to be a big one."

His old mentor has set his video for the whole match this time and he believes that the strength and courage he first started to see in his young charge 15 years ago will be crucial to the British cause.

"I remember a year-nine game when he made a tackle, got up and went to marker and made another tackle, before he said, 'Sir, I've broken my finger'."

That was when Bartlett started to think that there might be something special about the young Adrian Morley's brand of determination. Now, his is one of the more knowledgeable voices in the chorus telling him that Britain needs him to show that at Hull for 80 minutes - not 12 seconds.

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