Radlinski deployed as winger

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The Independent Online

Kris Radlinski, drafted into one relatively unfamiliar position for the Super League Grand Final last week, is being asked to play another as England step up their preparations for the Lincoln World Cup in Florida today.

Kris Radlinski, drafted into one relatively unfamiliar position for the Super League Grand Final last week, is being asked to play another as England step up their preparations for the Lincoln World Cup in Florida today.

Radlinski is the best full-back in the country, but he played centre for Wigan at Old Trafford and will be on the wing for England against the United States at Disney World. "Anyone who's worked with Kris Radlinski knows that he can perform equally well at full-back, centre and wing," said the England coach, John Kear.

Radlinski is the sort of player who inspires that degree of confidence, but his recent experience of playing on the wing is severely limited. "I last started a game there seven years ago," he said.

"Like all the squad, he will play anywhere for England," said Kear - and England are even more in need of a winger, especially a defensively sound one, than they are of Radlinski at full-back, where Bradford's Stuart Spruce is a capable deputy.

Not too much should be read into Kear's starting line-up for a game that will be played in four quarters, with unlimited substitutions, but he admits that he is still looking for workable combinations in some positions. It is thus significant that Paul Deacon gets the first run in the scrum-half shirt, with Sean Long at stand-off.

"At St Helens, Sean sometimes goes to stand-off while Tommy Martyn feeds the scrums," Kear said. "The great thing about Sean is that we want him to play for England the way he plays for Saints. We want him to be a maverick - to play like he loves playing rugby league."

That half-back pairing allows the England captain, Andy Farrell, to play loose forward. "Number 13 is undeniably his best position, but he has always said he will play anywhere for England," Kear said. "We are looking for the combinations that work best and Paul Sculthorpe will also get a run at 13."

Kear's front row puts his only specialist hooker, Paul Rowley, in between the two props who are most in need of game time, Harvey Howard and Francis Stephenson.

All the players who do not start, with the exception of Adrian Morley, who has had an American football chest-guard adapted to protect his sternum when the World Cup begins, will get a turn later in the game.

Even Chev Walker, initially ruled out with a sore back that has required an X-ray, could recover in time to be involved - partly, Kear believes, because of the quality of the rehab facilities available in Orlando.

He also believes that there have been psychological benefits in getting the squad away to the sun so soon before the start of the tournament while little measures like banning the wearing of club gear have helped create a mood of unity and there is undoubtedly a more upbeat feel about this group of players than some recent Great Britain parties.

That, though, might have something to do with the prospect of playing the Americans rather than the Australians or Kiwis. Despite the selection of five British-based players in Saints' Julian O'Neill, the Faimalo brothers - Joe and Esene - most recently on Salford's books, London's Steele Retchless and Marcus Vassilakopoulos of Sheffield Eagles, they should provide only modest opposition.

The rest of the team will come from America's fledgling domestic competition and that should allow Kear's candidates to face Australia a week today the leeway to show what they can do and why they should be in the forefront of his mind.

* A section of New Zealand's squad yesterday scrapped a threat to boycott the World Cup. The players, from Australia's National Rugby League, had issued the threat due to a dispute over unpaid contracts with the new owners of the Auckland Warriors NRL side.

England (v United States, Orlando, today): Spruce; Pryce, Naylor (all Bradford), Senior (Leeds), Radlinski (Wigan); Long (St Helens), Deacon (Bradford); Howard (Brisbane), Rowley (Huddersfield), Stephenson (Wigan), Forshaw (Bradford), Hay (Leeds), Farrell (Wigan).

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