Larder's rush job for England

Rugby League
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The Keighley Cougars coach, Phil Larder, is setting out on an 11-week dash to get England ready for the centenary World Cup in October.

As the most capable and experienced coach available, Larder was the obvious choice for such a pressurised and compressed task. He will be assisted by two of the most impressive young coaches in the business, Andy Goodway, of Oldham, and Castleford's John Joyner, with the former Hull KR chairman and Test second-rower, Phil Lowe, as team manager.

"I believe we have got the most experienced and exciting coaching team available," Larder said. "Although we have been drawn in a tough group in the World Cup with Australia, Fiji and South Africa, I'm sure we can make a big impression."

He is well equipped to hit the ground running, which England will need to do if they are to make up for lost time in their World Cup preparations. He will name a 40-man squad and begin training sessions this week.

Larder could have been Reilly's successor last year, had it not been for his insistence that a New Zealander, Graham Lowe, should not be involved with the national side. As it was, Ellery Hanley was appointed as Great Britain and England coach and his decision at the end of last season to sign up with the Australian Rugby League created the vacancy that was filled yesterday. Even Larder's belated elevation is tinged with controversy, with Keighley complaining that they have not been approached by the League for permission to borrow him.

The Keighley chairman, Mike O'Neill, who described the League's action as "disgraceful", said that he would be raising the question of compensation for the time Larder will be away from his club duties with the League's chief executive, Maurice Lindsay, today.

Auckland Warriors have withdrawn from the bidding for Jonah Lomu, improving the chances of his accepting an offer from one of three British clubs. However, those clubs, Wigan, Leeds and Sheffield, still face determined competition from Sydney Bulldogs for the giant All Black.