Paul the happy hooker

Rugby League
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The Independent Online
The hooker has officially become an endangered species with the news that both sides will go into the second semi-final of the Centenary World Cup without a specialist in the position.

Wigan's Henry Paul will play hooker for the first time in his senior career for New Zealand at Huddersfield on Sunday, up against Australia's Andrew Johns, who has played there just once. Paul, who has played virtually all his rugby in the backs, is drafted into the position vacated by the drug-testing casualty, Syd Eru, in preference to Gary Freeman, who played there in New Zealand's final group match against Papua New Guinea.

The New Zealand coach, Frank Endacott, has made other changes in an attempt to find the elusive blend that would unlock his side's potential. Back into the starting line-up come Kevin Iro and Richard Barnett, with Tony Kemp switching from loose forward to stand-off.

There is also a first appearance in the tournament at Huddersfield for the Kiwi vice-captain, John Lomax, who missed the first match through suspension and the second with a back injury. As expected, the side's skipper, Matthew Ridge, is fit to lead them, despite the recurrence of a rib injury against PNG.

The Australia coach, Bob Fulton, had two specialist hookers available in Wayne Bartrim and Aaron Raper, but opts instead for Johns, a half-back and goal-kicker who did a sound job there against Fiji on Saturday.

The other adjustments to the side, compared with the one beaten by England in the opening match of the tournament, see Brett Dallas replace John Hopoate on the wing and Gary Larson come into the pack for David Gillespie.

Larson, the North Sydney second-row, missed the start of the World Cup because of his wife's pregnancy, but has won a place in the starting line- up. David Gillespie, who injured his hamstring at Wembley, is one of five players bracketed for the four substitutes' spots.

AUSTRALIA (v New Zealand, World Cup semi-final, McAlpine Stadium, Huddersfield, Sunday): Brasher (Sydney Tigers); Dallas (Sydney Bulldogs), Hill (Manly), Coyne (St George), Wishart (Illawarra); Fittler (Penrith, capt), Toovey (Manly); Pay (Sydney Bulldogs), A Johns (Newcastle), Carroll (Manly), Menzies (Manly), Larson (North Sydney), Dymock (Sydney Bulldogs). Substitutes (from): Gillespie (Manly), O'Davis (Newcastle), Smith (Sydney Bulldogs), M Johns (Newcastle), Kosef (Manly).

NEW ZEALAND: Ridge (Manly, capt); Hoppe (Auckland), Blackmore (Auckland), K Iro (Leeds), Barnett (Cronulla); Kemp (Leeds), Jones (Auckland); Lomax (Canberra), Paul (Wigan), Lowrie (Sydney City), Kearney (Auckland), Pongia (Canberra), Horo (Sydney Wests). Substitutes: Ngamu (Auckland), Okesene (Auckland), Wiki (Canberra), T Iro Sydney City).

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