Great Britain's two Tests in Brussels this weekend against Belgium, at the start of their rapid build-up programme for next month's tough Olympic qualifying tournament in Barcelona, are going to be challenging for all concerned and in particular for Howard Hoskin and John Shaw - fighting for the remaining place in the squad.
For David Whitaker, the coach, the decision is not easy. Does he go for Southgate's experienced Shaw with 194 international appearances behind him or for Reading's exciting, aggressive Hoskin with just two recent caps against Argentina?
The object in Barcelona is to avoid the bottom three places in the eight nations round-robin. That will ensure a ticket to Atlanta and Shaw is likely to get the nod. But for the Olympics, where the first three places are those that really matter, Hoskin looks the stronger bet.
Julian Halls, who missed the recent games against Argentina following a double hernia operation, made a successful return to his club Old Loughtonians last weekend and is back in the international frame. With his World Cup full-back colleague, Phil McGuire, on the injury list, the hard-tackling Halls can be expected to line up with either Reading's Jon Wyatt or Southgate's Soma Singh alongside him. Teddington's Jason Laslett has been appointed captain.
GREAT BRITAIN SQUAD (v Belgium, Brussels, today and tomorrow) from: S Mason, H Hoskin, J Wyatt (all Reading), D Luckes (East Grinstead), J Halls, N Thompson (both Old Loughtonians), J Laslett (Teddington, capt), Soma Singh, J Shaw (both Southgate), S Hazlitt, G Fordham, R Thompson (all Hounslow), D Hall (Guildford), R Garcia (Polo Barcelona), C Giles (Havant), C Mayer, Kalbir Takher (both Cannock).Reuse content