Waite's call-up surprises Sinfield

Click to follow
The Independent Online

David Waite has lived up to his reputation for innovation and eyebrow-raising selections with his first Great Britain team, to face France on Friday.

With just one fit, specialist hooker – Paul King – in his squad, Waite has opted to name him in the second row, with Kevin Sinfield, who has never played hooker in his life, given the number nine jersey.

The national coach does not promise that the side will line up like that for the whole of the Test in Agen, but says that it is his likely starting team.

In another surprise, Bradford's Paul Deacon will be at stand-off with Lee Briers of Warrington at scrum-half – a direct reversal of their normal roles for their clubs.

"There is no difference between a number six and a number seven in the game these days," Waite said, stressing that he still had an open mind about those key positions.

"There is great significance for the players who play hooker and half-back in France. It will have a huge impact on how we think about the first Test against Australia."

Waite is laying great emphasis on flexibility and adaptability in his first Great Britain squad, which means that players like King and Sinfield will probably spend part of the game against France in more familiar positions.

As the team assembled in camp on the outskirts of Manchester yesterday, however, they seemed genuinely perplexed at their part in the scheme of things.

"I've only played a handful of games in the second row in my career," said King, impressive at prop as well as hooker for Hull this year. "But I know versatility is considered very important in this squad and I'm just delighted to be in the team, in any position."

Sinfield, a loose forward or occasional stand-off at Leeds, expressed a willingness to give it his best shot at hooker. "I've run there in training a few times, but I didn't realise they were serious about playing me there," he said.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge, if that's the way it's going to be."

Other notable inclusions in the side are David Hodgson – who could not get into Wigan's 17 for the Super League Grand Final – on the left wing, with two of his club-mates, Paul Johnson and Gary Connolly – who has agreed a new Wigan contract – at centre.

The former Halifax and Leigh coach, Steve Simms, is set to join Salford as director of rugby to work alongside Steve McCormack, 28, who is the youngest coach in Super League.

John Harbin, hailed as a hero after helping Wakefield to avoid relegation last season, says he does not want the job as coach at Belle Vue next year, because the stress has affected his health.

Stuart Cummings, who refereed the Grand Final, is considering taking legal action against Super League over a pen-portrait in the match programme which he claims was disparaging to him.


(v France, Agen, Friday): Anderson (Bradford), Briers (Warrington), Connolly (Wigan), Deacon (Bradford), Farrell (Wigan, capt), Fielden (Bradford), Forshaw (Bradford), Hodgson (Wigan), Horne (Hull), Johnson (Wigan), Joynt (St Helens), King (Hull), McDermott (Leeds), O'Connor (Wigan), Peacock (Bradford), Radlinski (Wigan), Senior (Leeds), Sinfield (Leeds), Wellens (St Helens), Withers (Bradford).