Larder stocks up on youth for World Cup

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The Independent Online
The England coach, Phil Larder, is putting his faith in youth in the squad that he hopes will be strong enough to win the Halifax Centenary World Cup.

Larder yesterday included three players in his 25 for the tournament who would have been unknown to anyone other than enthusiastic students of Academy Alliance teams not many months ago.

Kris Radlinski, the 19-year-old Wigan utility back, was included in England's 40-man training squad last month and now has an excellent chance of partnering Paul Newlove in the centres against Australia.

Two other teenagers have come with a late surge of form to claim their places. Simon Haughton, the Wigan second row who has proved a natural successor to Denis Betts, was added to the squad earlier this month, but for Paul Cook the call came out of the blue.

Cook played a handful of first-team matches for Leeds last season but an injury to Alan Tait has given him an extended run at full-back, where he has impressed with his counter-attacking as much as his phenomenally accurate goal-kicking.

"I have only selected players in whom I have complete confidence," Larder said. "I have been very impressed with the youngsters throughout the league and not just the ones in this squad. Before picking these young players, I've looked at their characters as well, and I know they can handle it."

That confidence is likely to be put to the test against Australia on 7 October, when Radlinski, who believes he should be fully recovered from an ankle injury, is a strong candidate to start the match at centre.

Larder revealed yesterday that he will be playing Gary Connolly at full- back, rather than in his usual Wigan position of centre. One Connolly for each role would have been handy, so reliable a player has he become. "I'm a bit annoyed with Gary's parents, that they only had one of him," Larder said.

Radlinski, who had not made his Wigan debut this time last year, could, however, be a Connolly in the making. His tackling is exemplary and is the major reason for Larder's enthusiasm for him.

Elsewhere in the squad there are few surprises. Despite some disinformation to the contrary, Shaun Edwards is the sensible choice as captain. The only players who might have been mildly surprised at their inclusion are Nick Pinkney of Keighley, Castleford's Tony Smith and two of the candidates for an open-side prop position that is open in every sense - Paul Broadbent and Dean Sampson.

On the day that the tournament director, Maurice Lindsay, attacked Australia for damaging the viability of the World Cup by not picking any players signed with the rival Super League organisation, Edwards had a different spin on the opposition in 10 days' time.

"I've followed their season closely and their form players have been the ARL players they have selected," he said. "They could pick three or four Test teams, so I don't see what the problem is."

ENGLAND SQUAD: Backs: J Bentley (Halifax), G Connolly (Wigan), P Cook (Leeds), S Edwards (Wigan, capt), B Goulding (St Helens), P Newlove (Bradford Bulls), M Offiah (Wigan), N Pinkney (Keighley Cougars), D Powell (Keighley Cougars), K Radlinski (Wigan), J Robinson (Wigan), T Smith (Castleford). Forwards: D Betts (Auckland Warriors), P Broadbent (Sheffield Eagles), M Cassidy (Wigan), P Clarke (Sydney City Roosters), A Farrell (Wigan), K Harrison (Halifax), S Haughton (Wigan), L Jackson (Sheffield Eagles), C Joynt (St Helens), B-J Mather (Wigan), S McCurrie (Widnes), A Platt (Auckland Warriors), D Sampson (Castleford).

n The Doncaster team manager, Peter Astbury, and coach, Andy Gascoigne, have been sacked less than two months after taking charge, having lost their last five games. Colin Woolford, the former Keighley player will take charge on a temporary basis.