Paul driven by a fear of failure

Kiwi match-winner keen to atone for recent lapses.
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The Independent Online

Robbie Paul, 10 years a resident in this country, is unequivocal about the size of the task facing him and his New Zealand team-mates when they resume their Tri-Nations campaign next Saturday.

"This is the best team Great Britain have ever put together," he says. "That's what I believe; what I know for a fact is that it's the best since I've been over here.

"It's the forwards. They're just full of world-class players, like Jamie Peacock, Stuart Fielden and Adrian Morley." Throw in the likes of Andy Farrell and Paul Sculthorpe, Paul believes, and Great Britain will go into combat at Huddersfield with awesome power in the pack.

One thing that does surprise him, however, is that he will not be required to face his Bradford team-mate, Paul Deacon, who was a shock omission from the British squad selected by the man who coaches them both at club level, Brian Noble.

"I'm surprised, but then again who would you leave out?" Paul says. "He's chosen his strongest squad, but if they have problems in the halves don't be surprised if Deeks gets pulled in.

"He's a very consistent player and Brian knows that he's not the type of bloke to react to not being picked by going on the piss for six weeks." Paul has disappointments of his own to overcome in what remains of the Tri-Nations. Last week's performance against Australia at Loftus Road was, by his own assessment, his worst in a Kiwi shirt and he was particularly hard on himself afterwards.

"I could have played a lot better," he says. "I believe I let myself down and let the team down." There were reasons why Paul was not at his best. "The preparation didn't hit the spot with the players and I struggled with not knowing the system, but I was still disappointed with how I played."

While the rest of the team had arrived in west London after playing Australia in Auckland, Paul and his Bulls team-mates, Lesley Vainikolo and Logan Swann, had joined up with them via a Grand Final defeat by Leeds.

"I'll get up to speed this week, although I know there's no guarantee of a place in the side. I have to fight for it and that's the best thing that could happen - that competitive edge." In a less confident player, a little self-doubt could be starting to creep in at this stage, because Paul's Grand Final will be largely remembered for a mistake that led to Leeds clinching the Super League title.

He had produced a magical pass for Bradford's try in the first half, but that memory has been obliterated by the way he put the ball down near his own line five minutes from time and Leeds' Danny McGuire scored the crucial try.

"I expect nothing but the best from myself, so that's why I'm hard on myself. To make a mistake like that in a big game was a disappointment, but I didn't lose the game for us. We just didn't do enough to win it." The combination of that and the Loftus Road failure, however, has added an extra edge to his appetite for next Saturday at Huddersfield.

"It's made me personally a lot more determined. I'll be up to speed this time," he vows.