Larder's hard choice

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The Independent Online
Rugby League

The Great Britain coach, Phil Larder, will today name a 32-man squad to tour Papua New Guinea, Fiji and New Zealand this autumn. As ever, it will contain a couple of dozen names that anyone could have predicted, a handful of contentious choices and one or two out-and-out oddities.

First, the certainties. Wigan's Andy Farrell will become the youngest- ever tour captain and he will have around him the bulk of the side that won the European Championship for England this year.

There are positions - like full-back, centre, hooker and back row - where Britain is relatively strong at present and there will be the luxury of deciding who to leave out.

Stuart Spruce of Bradford has done enough to make a successful bid at full-back, while a versatile player like Sheffield's Keith Senior, who can play centre, wing or second row, might recommend himself sufficiently.

In other positions, the options are more restricted and the complications more apparent.

Should Larder take Martin Offiah, for instance, when the player might prefer to be playing union with Bedford? Not if there were alternatives available, but, with the shining exception of Jason Robinson, Offiah remains the country's most accomplished winger.

And then there is the Iestyn Harris question. He is unlikely to play again this season - although, crucially, Warrington are in dispute with him rather than the other way around - but he is Britain's best stand- off by a distance.