Waite puts faith in British forward power to keep Ashes alive

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The Independent Online

Never mind Andy Farrell calling it the most important game of his career, when David Waite starts to home in on the here-and-now, rather than the long-term implications, you know that today's Test at Hull is something very special.

The Great Britain coach has a tendency to hedge his bets with talk of the performance being more important than the result, of five-year plans and structures. There has been little of that this time; good grief, he has even used the v-word, because only victory will do.

It is the paradox of the defeat in the first Test at Wigan a week ago that all it proved was that Great Britain have no excuses for failing to win the Ashes after a 33-year wait.

Even with 12 men - and another virtually unused on the bench - even with so many aspects of their game below par, they were still the better side and should have won with something to spare.

Australia lost one player yesterday, with Shannon Hegarty failing a fitness Test on his ankle and Matt Sing of North Queensland coming in to win his seventh cap on the wing. More important by far is that Brett Kimmorley's thigh was pronounced healthy, but, even with him, they look profoundly vulnerable today.

Unless they show something they have not even begun to hint at so far on this tour, and Great Britain play incredibly badly, the series should be squared up for a decider at Huddersfield next week.

Although it is not radically altered, this is a back-to-basics British side, packed with as much physical presence in the forwards as it can be. It is a combination that will go out unashamedly to bash the Aussies, although Adrian Morley's fate last week - and the penalties Terry Newton gave away - are a warning of what can happen if you overstep a very fine line.

Behind them, it is fair to expect that Paul Deacon's kicking will be infinitely better than Sean Long's last week and that he will not be as vulnerable defensively. Kris Radlinski is another who can be confidently expected to make up for his first Test failings.

"They probably feel pretty fortunate to have won the first," said Waite of his fellow countrymen. "If they lost the second, they'd become incredibly worried. Our aim is to make them incredibly worried."

The biggest worry for Britain is how Paul Sculthorpe will last the 80 minutes after being confined to his room with a virus for much of the week. That is where much could be asked of Kevin Sinfield, if he has to come off the bench and play stand-off at some stage.

Long can banish last week's blemishes from his memory if he can come on - probably for Newton - and have an impact with his pace and elusiveness. It is something he is well capable of doing, even though he failed to give the side the structure it needed at Wigan.

Great Britain's Test preparations have included karate and fire-walking. Success in that latter discipline is largely a case of mind-over-matter, of persuading yourself that you can do it.

Many Great Britain sides have wilted in the heat of battle since 1970, but this one has experienced the intensity that the Australians can bring to bear and still has the belief that there is nothing in prospect that is too hot for them to withstand.

If anyone is facing melt-down, it should be Australia, especially in the passionately partisan atmosphere that can be expected at the KC Stadium. They have ruled the game for so long, but they are the ones who should be anxious tonight.