Rugby League: Briers works on development plan

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The Independent Online
LEE BRIERS will be hoping to bring away rather better memories from his second return visit to his old club today than he did from his first.

Briers had been a Warrington player for just a few days when he went back to St Helens last April to find himself on the wrong end of a 60- 16 scoreline - the third heavy beating his side had taken at Knowsley Road in three visits. "I don't remember too much about that game," he said. "It's probably because I've tried to forget it, but it was hard going."

Briers had moved from Saints in search of regular first-team rugby and, despite that unhappy baptism, has no regrets about doing so. What is more, he firmly believes that Warrington's return to Knowsley Road today in their Silk Cut Challenge Cup fifth-round tie will be a very different experience. "I can't wait to play there again," he said. "There have been many changes since then at Warrington - all for the better. The main thing is that we have done a lot of work on our defence."

With 200 points in their debit column from those last three visits, there has clearly been room for improvement in that department, and having a more solid base to work from can only help the 19-year-old Briers' development. A stint standing in for the suspended Bobbie Goulding at Saints gave him the taste for the top flight. When Goulding was available once more, the relative obscurity of the Alliance team beckoned again. "And I didn't fancy that prospect at all."

Even playing in a struggling side like Warrington last season, Briers impressed sufficiently to be voted Super League's Young Player of the Year, ahead of equally promising scrum-halves such as Saints' Sean Long and Danny Orr of Castleford.

This could be the season when all three make their mark, with one emerging as a candidate for the Test side by the time New Zealand arrive in November. Briers believes that he will benefit from playing alongside Warrington's new stand-off, Adam Doyle, and another newly arrived Australian, the hooker and team captain, Danny Farrar. They are both players who will make Warrington a tougher proposition than Saints have grown used to meeting over the past couple of years.

Injury will prevent Adam Fogerty from playing against Saints, who are also his old team, while Chris Morley has not yet established himself in Warrington's starting line-up. Morley was a make-weight in the deal that took Paul Sculthorpe to Knowsley Road in the biggest transfer deal of the close season. Sculthorpe was such a tower of strength for Warrington last season that it is difficult to imagine them without him, but he will be in Saints' colours this afternoon and is one reason why their radically remodelled side might rediscover the consistency which deserted them last season.

The new blood in other positions will also freshen up a team who had lost their way, although it is still anyone's guess how well the chemistry will eventually work. Their record of having won the Cup over the last two seasons will focus the minds even of players who were not involved, however, and even a much-improved Warrington will find it difficult to eject them from the competition at this stage.

The other, equally attractive all-Super League clash is at the Stoop in London, where the Broncos - showing even more changes from last season than Saints - should be just too strong for Halifax.

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