Rugby: Australians poised to complete another tour unbeaten

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S YOUNG players get their last chance this millennium to sample the unknown pleasures of defeating their counterparts from Australia at Hull tonight, writes Dave Hadfield. The Australian Schoolboys, unbeaten here since 1972, play the final game of another triumphant tour against the Great Britain and Ireland Young Lions at The Boulevard having beaten them 24-4 in the first Test at Widnes on Sunday.

The Great Britain coach, Steve McCormack, has been limited in the changes he could make by the decision to send home four non-playing members of his squad for breaking a drinking ban last week. He brings in Eric Andrews of Wigan on the wing and includes Gareth Dean, the former Pontypool prop now playing league with Cardiff Academy, on the bench.

There are fitness doubts over two players with Super League experience, Mark Smith of Wigan and Chris Thorman of Huddersfield-Sheffield, but there has been no action taken against Leeds' Chev Walker, who was sin-binned along with the Australian winger, Junior Langi, during a stormy first Test. In fact, there have been no disciplinary citings from that game despite several brawls, one of them involving most of the players.

Hunslet, denied entry to Super League despite winning last season's Northern Ford Premiership, have been awarded the consolation prize of being treated as a Super League club for Challenge Cup purposes. In order to rejig the numbers to ensure 16 ties in the fourth round of this year's competition, Hunslet have been given a bye through to that round.

In addition, one "lucky loser" from the second round will be drawn out of the hat on New Year's Eve and will get a second chance. It might sound messy, but the Rugby League's chief executive, Neil Tunnicliffe, said: "We believe that these developments will enhance the excitement of the sport's most prestigious knock-out competition."

Last year's beaten semi-finalists, Castleford, have completed their overseas quota for next season by signing the Australian, Andrew Purcell, from Hull. Purcell, formerly with Cronulla and Illawarra, played hooker, half- back and loose forward for Hull last season but has been squeezed out by their merger with Gateshead and now takes the place on the import roster of James Pickering, who has not been detained by Castleford.