Test call-up makes Deacon less blue

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The Independent Online

Deacon's coach at Bradford, Brian Noble, yesterday named him in the 24-man party to fly to their training camp in Spain tomorrow - the only player from outside the original 40-strong squad to be drafted in.

"His form in the last six weeks has been impressive," said Noble, who broke the news to his scrum-half during Sunday's Grand Final-winning celebrations.

"We've not spoken about it during the season," Deacon said. "But I've been quite pleased with my form. I've been playing consist-ently the last few weeks."

Also included after being omitted last year is Leeds' captain, Kevin Sinfield. "It's a huge testimony to both players," said Noble. "It's not nice to be left out. You've got to work as hard as you can to get back in and I'm delighted for both of them."

There is no place for the injured Danny McGuire is not included, but Noble believes Keith Senior will be fit to play New Zealand on 29 October. There are five uncapped players - Hull's Gareth Raynor and Jamie Thackray, St Helens' Nick Fozzard and Jon Wilkin, plus Leeds' Rob Burrow - one more will be added after England's game against France this Sunday.

Clinton Toopi, who scored a hat-trick in New Zealand's shock victory over Australia on Saturday, is doubtful for Friday's re-match with a knee injury. Shontayne Hape, of Bradford, has flown to New Zealand as a replacement.

Nathan Hindmarsh has been reinstated in Australia's squad, in place of Timana Tahu, who tore a hamstring against the Kiwis.

Castleford have told their coach, Dave Woods, that he is not being retained for next season, despite leading them to promotion. "We felt we needed someone with more experience for the tremendous challenge that Super League will bring," said the club's chief executive, Richard Wright.

Whitehaven, beaten by Castleford in the Grand Final, have also parted company with their coach, with Steve McCormack agreeing a two-year contract with relegated Widnes. "Our aim is a swift return to Super League," said the Widnes chairman, Tony Chambers.