Powell's return doubly crucial

Rugby League
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The Independent Online
The Keighley Cougars and England coach, Phil Larder, will have a double reason for watching Daryl Powell anxiously tomorrow, writes David Hadfield.

Powell, one of the most experienced internationals in England's World Cup squad, plays his first match of the season for Keighley against Wakefield Trinity tomorrow. Operations on both Achilles tendons have delayed Powell's start, but Larder badly needs him to show some form and fitness immediately, not just for the Cougars' sake, but for England's.

"It's very important that Daryl comes through safely," Larder said. "Especially now that Nigel Wright is injured and out of the reckoning for the World Cup."

The loss of the Wigan stand-off means that Powell is the clear front- runner for a crucial role in the England side, in direct opposition in the tournament opener at Wembley on 7 October to Australia's captain and playmaker, Brad Fittler. If he cannot make up for lost time, the larder looks ominously bare.

Garry Schofield, a stand-off even more familiar with the international arena although he was not in England's original 40-man squad, is likely to miss another chance to remind Larder of his abilities in Leeds' televised game at the London Broncos tomorrow night. He has suffered from gastro- enteritis this week and is probably too weak to play. David Gibbons will come in at scrum-half, with Leeds' new signing from Wigan, Barrie McDermott, earmarked for a place on the bench.

Another player denied further chances to impress Larder is the Halifax hooker, Paul Rowley. His three-match suspension after being placed on report for a suspected high tackle against Leeds will keep him out of club rugby until after the World Cup, a serious blow for a young player who had forced himself into contention with some outstanding performances this season.

Paul Moriarty, also placed on report in the same incident, was found not guilty, but Asa Amone, Halifax' new Tongan recruit, who was sent off for his first tackle in Britain, has been banned for one match and also misses tomorrow's game against Sheffield Eagles

Bradford Bulls have signed the ex-Castleford player Graeme Bradley from the Australian club, St George on a two-year contract. The strong-running 31-year-old centre, who arrives in December, is teaming up again with his former St George boss Brian Smith, who took the coaching reins at Bradford a week ago. He made 33 appearances for Castleford in the 1991- 92 season.