Noble puts faith in attacking finish

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The Independent Online

Few people in rugby league know better than Brian Noble that it is not the way you start a competition that counts, but the way you finish it. At Bradford midway through the season, things got so bad that Noble questioned whether he wanted to carry on.

Having decided that he did, he spurred them into a run of form that brought them the Super League title. Similarly, this Tri-Nations campaign began with an inept display against New Zealand, continued with a frustrating loss to Australia and burst into life with last week's victory over the Kiwis. "We need to keep improving and then we have the chance to reach the final," said Noble this week. "Perhaps if we'd found that template straight away we wouldn't have worked as hard."

Last year, Great Britain found their best form early in the tournament, only to implode in the final. Noble is more at home with the steady progress this time. "We weren't far off against Australia two weeks ago. We just didn't execute our attacking plays."

Australia's coach, Wayne Bennett, agrees with that assessment. "That game could have gone their way," he said, "and I'm sure Saturday night will be just the same." If that is the case, then there are grounds for believing that Great Britain can go one better this time.

For one thing, Australia are without Darren Lockyer as well as Andrew Johns, - the two players Great Britain most fear.

OK, cancel the celebrations, because a half-back combination of Trent Barrett and Craig Gower is clever and highly physical. But you would still rather face them. Great Britain have had their injury problems as well.

Apart from Paul Deacon the defensive qualities of Paul Wellens will be missed. Noble, however, is a believer in silver linings. Although he will not reveal his line-up until an hour before today's kick-off, he is almost certain to switch Leon Pryce to full-back, where his counter-attacking capabilities could add an extra dimension.

His move will create a vacancy on the left wing for Hull's Gareth Raynor, who has been impressive in training. Richard Horne is another who could draw inspiration from playing on his home ground, provided he starts at scrum-half. "That was my goal at the start of the season," said Horne, whose likely combination with Iestyn Harris is an intriguing one. Harris had his best game for Great Britain last week and more of the same would give them a real chance.

The tournament has given Stuart Fielden a genuine claim to be regarded as the best forward in the world. Perhaps the most significant factor, though, has been the return to the Test arena of Keiron Cunningham. An Australian agent claimed yesterday that Cunningham is looking for an NRL club for 2007.

He and Fielden could take their pick of Australian clubs and join Adrian Morley and Brian Carney, for whose hamstring many fingers will be crossed tonight.

Today's teams at the KC Stadium

Great Britain

1 Pryce (Bradford)

2 Carney (Wigan)

3 Gleeson (Warrington)

4 Senior (Leeds)

5 Raynor (Hull)

6 Harris (Bradford)

7 Horne (Hull)

8 Fielden (Bradford)

9 Cunningham (St Helens)

10 Morley (Sydney)

11 Peacock (Bradford, capt)

12 Johnson (Bradford)

13 Ellis (Leeds)

SUBSTITUTES: Higham (St Helens), Walker (Leeds), Thackray (Hull), Gilmour (St Helens).

Australia  

1 Minichiello (Sydney)

2 King (Melbourne)

3 Gasnier (St George)

4 Cooper (St George)

5 Tate (Brisbane)

6 Barrett (St George)

7 Gower (Penrith)

8 Civoniceva (Brisbane)

9 Buderus (Newcastle, capt)

10 Ryles (St George)

11 Fitzgibbon (Sydney)

12 O'Donnell (N Queensld)

13 Kennedy (Manly)

SUBSTITUTES: Wing (Sydney), O'Meley, Mason (both Canterbury), Waterhouse (Penrith)

Kick-off: 6.15 (TV Sky Sports 1)

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