Noble maintains silence on make-up of Britain squad

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The Independent Online

The Great Britain coach, Brian Noble, has completed his support staff for the Tri-Nations this autumn but is keeping his 40-man squad of players a closely guarded secret.

Noble yesterday named the Huddersfield coach, Jon Sharp, and Graham Steadman, who was sacked by Castleford earlier this season, as his assistants. Steadman thus retains the role he had under David Waite, but Sharp, previously the assistant at St Helens, is a newcomer at this level.

"Jon is an exciting, young coach, whose knowledge of the game and the people he has been around will no doubt help the players,'' said Noble. "But I'm also a believer in stability and we have re-engaged Graham.''

The most significant change to the backroom staff is the likely appointment of the Bradford conditioner, Carl Jennings, who is now in Australia with the Canberra Raiders. "I think it's a talented team,'' Noble said.

The team he will put on the field however remains shrouded in mystery. "I have an exciting, youthful 40 names, from which a final squad of 24 will be selected after the Grand Final,'' he said. "I don't want to put undue pressure on those 40 people now.''

That means that only the 40 men considered by Noble and his staff to be front-runners for the tournament, which also involves Australia and New Zealand, know of their status.

Nor will Noble be getting his squad together until they go to Spain for warm-weather training three days after the Grand Final next month.

Paul Sculthorpe, who will be one of Great Britain's key men in the tournament says that the decision of three of New Zealand's big guns - Stacey Jones, Stephen Kearney and Richard Swain - to retire from international rugby will not weaken the Kiwi challenge. "Whatever team they put out will have world class players,'' he said.

Australia, by contrast, have told their players that they will not accept withdrawals, other than for injury or family reasons.

Wigan have held a meeting with their coach Mike Gregory, who has been on sick leave for three months, to resolve his future, but will not announce the result until next week. Danny McGuire and Chris McKenna are back in Leeds' side for their game at Wigan tonight, but there is still no place for Francis Cummins who has not yet been offered a contract for next season.