Wood's fine season earns spot in Tri-Nations squad

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The Independent Online

The Warrington forward Paul Wood was promoted to the full Great Britain squad yesterday for their Tri-Nations campaign, which gets under way against New Zealand on Saturday. The 25-year-old was named as the official replacement for St Helens forward James Graham, who was a late withdrawal after breaking a bone in his hand during the recent Grand Final.

Wood, originally named in the standby squad, travelled to Sydney in the 18-strong advance party a fortnight ago and played in Friday's 40-6 win over a Newcastle District team.

The coach Brian Noble has also released four players, including the Warrington pair Lee Briers and Ben Westwood, but kept Wood's team-mate, Stuart Reardon. Reardon, 25, who played on the wing in all five of Britain's matches in the inaugural Tri-Nations tournament in 2004, will not be part of the official 25-man squad but will remain with the party to provide cover. Britain have only one recognised full-back in Paul Wellens and just three specialist centres.

Wood who made his only previous Great Britain appearance against New Zealand A in the build-up to the 2003 Ashes Series, has been rewarded for his fine season with Warrington. He is the second change to Britain's original squad, following the elevation of the Salford prop Andy Coley for the ankle injury victim Paul Johnson.

Briers, who won his solitary Great Britain cap against France in 2001, was returning home yesterday and will be free to captain Wales in their World Cup qualifier against Scotland in Bridgend on Sunday.

Westwood is expected to be made available for England's games against Tonga and Samoa in the Federation Shield, along with the Salford winger David Hodgson and Wigan's Mickey Higham, the other players cut from the squad. "The coaching staff have now finalised their plans for the Tri-Nations," said Great Britain's manager Abi Ekoku. "We would like to thank the players returning home for their professionalism."

Great Britain reported no injuries from Friday's warm-up match when they trained at the Brookvale Oval in the Manly region of Sydney yesterday.

The Bradford hooker Terry Newton was rested for the match in Newcastle, along with the 10 players from St Helens and Hull who arrived late following the Grand Final.

The squad will remain in Sydney until Thursday when they fly to Christchurch for their fixture with the Kiwis.

Great Britain's revised Tri-Nations squad: M Aspinwall (Huddersfield), R Burrow (Leeds), B Carney (Newcastle Knights), G Carvell (Hull), A Coley (Salford), G Ellis (Leeds), S Fielden (Wigan), L Gilmour (St Helens), M Gleeson (Warrington), G Hock (Wigan), R Horne (Hull), L Pryce (St Helens), S Long (St Helens), D McGuire (Leeds), A Morley (Warrington), T Newton (Bradford), S O'Loughlin (Wigan), J Peacock (Leeds, capt), G Raynor (Hull), J Roby (St Helens), K Senior (Leeds), P Wellens (St Helens), J Wilkin (St Helens), P Wood (Warrington), K Yeaman (Hull).