Radlinski plays role of accidental hero

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The Independent Online

A week before their meeting in the opening game in the Lincoln World Cup, England sent a message to Australia that they can be just as greedy as them.

A week before their meeting in the opening game in the Lincoln World Cup, England sent a message to Australia that they can be just as greedy as them.

Nobody in Orlando was getting carried away by a romp that yielded 20 tries - five of them to their reluctant winger, Kris Radlinski - but against hopelessly outgunned opposition England did everything asked of them and more.

"I asked them to be ruthless, to be clinical, to be relentless and to 'nil' the Americans," said their coach, John Kear. "You have to put a tick against each of those."

That tick was rather larger and more emphatic than could ever have been expected. England could have struggled to find their form against a side with a solid nucleus of players with British and Australian experience; instead they started scoring tries in the third minute and continued to do so until the last play of the match.

It was the attitude they showed rather than any records they broke that pleased Kear. Records did fall, though, England beating by two points the 108 Australia put past a weak New Zealand XIII little more than a week ago and the 102 Lebanon scored against Morocco.

That makes it the highest score ever recorded against an international side, even though America still rank as very minor league players in the world pecking order.

It is also debatable whether any records set in Orlando should stand at all. The game was played in four quarters and with unlimited substitutions - all adding to the air of unreality at Disney World, surely the right setting for a game that seemed to come straight from someone's overactive imagination.

England did the early damage by moving the ball wide as quickly as they could. Radlinski was the main beneficiary, scoring two of the first three tries from a position he admits to heartily disliking.

"John knows it's not my favourite position," said the Wigan full-back. "But he also knows that wherever he plays me I'll do my best."

Radlinski had a chance to shine in his more accustomed role later in the match, but his success on the flank could encourage Kear to use him there against Australia at Twickenham. Kear will also have been encouraged by the display of the 18-year-old Leon Pryce on the opposite wing. He contributed three tries and - more importantly - escaped serious injury when he was smashed into the goal-post in the process of touching down for the second of them.

Not so fortunate were Nathan McAvoy, who limped off with a worrying recurrence of an old knee injury, and Paul Sculthorpe, who suffered the first hamstring injury of his career.

Sculthorpe will be a concern to Kear this week, but there was much else here to persuade him that there is a pleasing depth of ability in his squad.

It can be hard for players to shine in a game for which revolving doors could be fitted to the dug-outs, but his new prop, Francis Stephenson, stood out, whilst the Bradford second-rower, Jamie Peacock, caused havoc with his wide running later in the game.

On the broader canvas, it was possible to see combinations of players gaining confidence in each other in these most favourable of circumstances.

This was as different from next Saturday's task as it is possible for two rugby league matches to be, but as a practice session to enable players to get to know each other it was an undeniable success.

Significantly, Kear and his players were more delighted with the nil than the 110. Points have become a debased currency in internationals of late.

"But I'd settle for a 110-108 win at Twickenham," said Kear.

USA: Warren; Fabri, J.Faimalo, Balachandran, Sheridan; Vassilakopoulos, Niu; O'Neill, Retchless, E Faimalo, David, Mains, Preston. Substitutes used: Woodbridge, Griffiths, Edwards, Howland, Hollingsworth, Hansbury.

England: Spruce; Pryce, Naylor, Senior, Radlinski; Smith, Long; Stephenson, Rowley, Howard, Hay, Forshaw, Farrell. Substitutes used: Peacock, Sinfield, Walker, McAvoy, Sculthorpe, Fleary, Anderson, Wellens, Fielden.

Referee: R Connolly (Wigan).

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