Rugby League: Britain on World Cup crash course

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The Independent Online
GREAT BRITAIN have opted for a highly condensed preparation for the World Cup final against Australia, with just 11 days between the naming of the squad and the match at Wembley.

The coach of the national team, Malcolm Reilly, will name 19 players on 13 October and will then hope for a clean bill of health from the weekend's domestic programme before starting intensive work with them in the week leading up to the final on 24 October.

That will make for a hectic build-up to arguably the most important international occasion the code in this country has seen, but Reilly is not unduly worried. 'I expect 90 per cent of the squad to come from players who were involved in the tour this summer,' he said.

Reilly was at Widnes on Sunday to put three players who did not tour under particular scrutiny. Jonathan Davies could give him an alternative both as a full-back and on the right wing, and his former Welsh rugby union team-mate Paul Moriarty has the size and power to trouble Australia. The Widnes player who has made the biggest impression, however, is Richie Eyres, who has gained a good deal of muscle over the summer and looks a strong contender for a place in the pack. The outstanding form of the St Helens' utility back, Alan Hunte, who toured this summer without playing a Test, has also been noted.

Australia, already deprived by knee injuries of Lawrie Daley and possibly Andrew Ettingshausen, name a 22-man squad after their Grand Final on Sunday, and there is every chance of favourites Brisbane dominating the selection.

One certainty is that the final will break the British international record, advance ticket sales having topped 55,000 with more than a month to go, the third time that the record has been broken in the last six years. The next target is the world record of 70,204 for the Test between the two countries in Sydney in 1932. Wembley's capacity of 78,000 also looks under threat.