Rugby League: Australia on quiet route to Wembley

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AUSTRALIA have asked for and been given a relatively undemanding series of warm-up games in England to help them prepare for the World Cup final at Wembley on 24 October.

They will play Huddersfield, last season's Third Division champions, on 9 October, a Friday, Sheffield Eagles the following Wednesday, and meet Cumbria at Workington on the Sunday before the final.

The first match will be at Huddersfield Town's ground in Leeds Road because, while of generous proportions in its heyday, Fartown now has a safety limit of 3,000.

The game against the Second Division champions at rugby league's most modern ground, the Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield, will be the most demanding. It will also be the first international at the stadium and a piquant one for Garry Jack and Bruce McGuire, the two former Australian internationals who joined the Eagles last week.

The professional game in Cumbria is engaged in a long struggle against decline and the visit of the Australians will be a considerable boost for the county.

Overall, though, the short programme is designed to give the visitors suitable match practice rather than to set British spectators' pulses racing. 'It is not a full- fledged tour,' David Howes, the Rugby League's spokesman, said. 'They asked specifically for warm- up matches and that is what they have been given.'

Hence the absence of a suggested fixture with Wales, whose national side was successfully re- formed last season. 'They looked at their scores against Papua New Guinea and France last season and decided it would be too much of a bruising encounter,' Howes said.

The Australians also plan to base themselves in Leeds before they move on to London for the final, for which 40,000 tickets have already been sold, and regarded the likely Welsh venue, Swansea, as too far away.

Australia will name a 22-man squad for the trip on 28 September, the day after the Sydney Grand Final, and will arrive in Britain eight days later.