McAvoy earns England call-up

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The Independent Online
Nathan McAvoy, Salford's 19-year-old centre, wins his first senior cap tomorrow when England meet Wales in Cardiff with the European Championship at stake.

McAvoy, a beautifully balanced giant of 6ft 5in, gets his chance because Paul Newlove is ruled out with a chest infection. He has already made his mark in junior internationals, including the Great Britain Academy's victory over France earlier this month.

"I got a hint then that I might be considered, but it has come a lot quicker than I expected," McAvoy said. "It has taken me aback a little but I can handle it."

Phil Larder, the England coach, said: "Nathan has been playing well all season. We have been really impressed with him and he is an exciting, talented player."

Steve Blakeley, McAvoy's team-mate at Salford, loses his place after playing in the victory over France at Gateshead two weeks ago. Larder has opted for his talisman, Daryl Powell.

With Featherstone's Steve Molloy also included, in place of the injured Karl Harrison, there are three representatives from outside the Super League, reflecting Larder's familiarity with the First Division in his capacity as the Keighley coach.

John Bentley, the Halifax winger, has had a late call-up after Martin Offiah failed a fitness test on a bruised toe, despite being named in the side yesterday morning.

The other significant selections are the retention of Shaun Edwards at scrum-half, ahead of Bobbie Goulding, and the re-instatement of Andrew Farrell, who missed the French game through injury, at loose forward.

That means that Farrell will become England's youngest ever captain, albeit two weeks older than he would have been.

England's substitutes will be named today, along with a Welsh side that can be expected to defend its European title with vigour. Both the wingers who played against France, Gerald Cordle and Anthony Sullivan, are regarded as doubtful.

Scott Gibbs has not been able to prove his fitness after a shoulder injury by playing for St Helens, but the arrival of Allan Bateman from Australia has given the Welsh coach, Clive Griffiths, a highly-experienced reinforcement in the centres.

ENGLAND (v Wales, Cardiff Arms Park, tomorrow): Prescott (St Helens); Robinson (Wigan), McAvoy (Salford), Connolly (Wigan), Bentley (Halifax); Powell (Keighley), Edwards (Wigan); Broadbent (Sheffield), Lawless (Sheffield), Molloy (Featherstone), Joynt (St Helens), Sculthorpe (Warrington), Farrell (Wigan, capt)

Huddersfield are hoping to move up from the First Division into the Super League next season, even though they are unlikely to win promotion. They have submitted a formal application to be admitted to the top flight, which will be considered at a meeting of the council of clubs on Wednesday week - the same day that South Wales's attempt to be fast-tracked from the Second Division into the Super League will be put to the vote.

Workington Town are giving a trial to Abraham Fatnowna, the former Brisbane Broncos full-back. He will play for their alliance side on Saturday at Sheffield, and Workington hope to have a work permit in place in time for him to play in the Super League relegation match with Paris a week later.