Hanley has options cut

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The Independent Online
The clash with the St Helens-Wigan Challenge Cup replay means that England will field the rawest international side in living memory, against France at Gateshead tomorrow, writes Dave Hadfield.

Apart from the nine players claimed by that Cup tie, Harvey Howard and Anthony Farrell withdrew through injury yesterday, leaving the England coach, Ellery Hanley, to piece together a squad that includes eight uncapped players.

The most rapid promotion is that of the Workington Town second-row, Steve Holgate, who less than a year ago was playing amateur rugby league, but who has impressed Hanley with his forthright and enthusiastic approach this season. Also drafted in yesterday were the Castleford centre, Richard Goddard, and Warrington's prop, Mark Hilton.

The difficulty involved in producing a credible team was highlighted by the case of the Halifax winger, John Bentley, a policeman who was at Headingley yesterday helping to launch MFI's sponsorship of the British Police tour to Australia next year.

Bentley was asked to stick around to help the England squad with their inquiries and found himself included as a substitute for the Gateshead match.

Hanley was commendably positive about the compromises that have been forced upon him. "It's no use crying over spilt milk," he said. "We have lost players, but we could have lost them through injury. All the players coming in have a chance to make their mark, with a tour to Australia next May."

Last night's Challenge Cup fifth-round draw pits the winners of the replay that has caused all the problems against Batley. St Helens or Wigan will travel to Mount Pleasant for the tie on 26 February. A draw which keeps the remaining top sides apart sees Leeds at home to Ryedale-York and Warrington at home to Oldham. There will be at least two Second Division clubs in the last eight, as a result of ties which pair Hull KR with Whitehaven and Keighley with Huddersfield.

That is poor reward, however, for Whitehaven and Huddersfield, who beat the First Division clubs, Wakefield and Halifax, in the fourth round.

The chairman of the Rugby League, Rodney Walker, has warned of a likely breakaway by the bigger clubs if a meeting of all the League's members does not accept a change in voting rights tomorrow.

A system of three votes for First Division clubs, two for Second and one for the three former professional clubs in the National Conference is up for discussion at the Rugby League Council, along with proposals for an Anglo-Australian transfer ban and a salary cap.

ENGLAND (v France, European Championship, Gateshead, tomorrow): R Gay (Hull); I Butt (Featherstone), N Pinkney (Keighley), R Goddard (Castleford), F Cummins (Leeds); N Wright (Wakefield), D Fox (Bradford); P Broadbent , L Jackson (both Sheffield), S McNamara (Hull), S Holgate (Workington), S Baldwin (Halifax), D Powell (Sheffield, capt). Substitutes: J Bentley (Halifax), S McCurrie (Widnes), T Smith (Castleford), M Hilton (Warrington). Travelling reserve: R Simpson (Bradford).

FRANCE: L Lucchese (Sheffield); J-M Garcia (Saint-Estve), S Millet (St Guadens), F Banquet (Featherstone), C Sirvent (St Gaudens) or P Bomati (XIII Catalan); D Despin (Limoux), P Entat (Leeds); J Pech (Pia), D Cabestany (XIII Catalan, capt), D Divet (Featherstone), K Jaavuo (Pia), S Tena (XIII Catalan), F Teixido (Limoux). Substitutes: E Attia (Cannes), L Hebert (Pia), J-L Ramondou (Pamiers), P Bomati (XIII Catalan) or C Sirvent (St Gaudens).

Silk Cut Challenge Cup fifth-round draw: Sheffield v Widnes; Hull KR v Whitehaven; Leeds v Ryedale-York; Hunslet or Salford v Featherstone; Keighley v Huddersfield; Batley v Wigan or St Helens; Warrington v Oldham; Workington v Swinton or Leigh. Ties to be played 25-26 February.