Rugby League: Ashes record attendance expected at Wembley

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The Independent Online
TOMORROW'S first John Smith's Test between Great Britain and Australia at Wembley is set to establish a crowd record for an Ashes meeting.

Advance sales for the game were said by the Rugby League yesterday to be around 55,000, which would beat the 54,569 at Wembley four years ago. Only the World Cup final between the two sides at the same venue in 1992 has attracted a bigger attendance - an international record of 73,631.

Both sides reported a clean bill of health as they made their way down to London yesterday, with the only question to be resolved that of who plays scrum-half for Australia.

The Kangaroos have trained with both Allan Langer and Ricky Stuart in that position, but the balance of opinion is that Langer will get the nod - something that Stuart, the form scrum-half of the Australian season, has indicated will leave him feeling badly aggrieved.

Both sides will have an acclimatising stroll around the stadium today but, in a departure from previous practice, have barred the media from attending.

At Wembley yesterday, the draw for the Coca-Cola World Sevens in Australia next February revealed that Italy, Morocco and Canada will take part for the first time.

The director general of the game's international board, Ken Arthurson, said that the news was a major boost for the code's expansion.

'Nothing has contributed more to the growth of the game internationally than the Sevens,' he said. The four new sides in the Winfield Cup, from Perth, Auckland and north and south Queensland, will make their competitive debuts in the Sevens.

Great Britain, whose participation is a predictable source of mid-season controversy here, have been drawn in a group with St George, North Sydney and Penrith.

Australian elation over the expanded Sevens was balanced yesterday by the news that the Brisbane Broncos are threatening a breakaway. The Broncos have a long- running series of grievances with the Australian League and have influential backers in Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd.

The other club being linked with the potential breakaway is Canberra, but backers with international aspirations could also try to attract Wigan.

Andy Gregory, the former Wigan player has been appointed player-coach of Salford, with Garry Jack becoming team manager.

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