Rugby League: Britain primed to reach new heights

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The Independent Online
EVERYTHING points to an evening of prolific try-scoring at Headingley tonight and, while that should provide Great Britain with a measure of satisfaction, it will hardly be a good thing for the game in Europe, writes Dave Hadfield.

Britain's 48-6 win in Carcassonne last month revealed the French to be in their saddest state for many years. If a stronger British side clicks tonight, the 60 points scored in this fixture two years ago could be surpassed.

The French have brought five new players into their side. The likely effect will be to make them more convincing at full-back and scrum-half. On the other hand, they are without their centre, Pierre Chamorin, and the second row, Ezzedine Attia, who impressed in Carcassonne.

Just as the Australian coach, Frank Stanton, let Britain in on his training methods to help us catch up in 1982, so Britain has followed a course of enlightened self-interest by lending the French the Wakefield coach, Dave Topliss, to help them prepare.

Even in the absence of Garry Schofield and Martin Offiah Britain have a better side this time. The backs are full of attacking firepower, with the members of the threequarter line too fast and too strong to be contained by their opposite numbers. The danger for Alan Tait is that he will not get enough defensive work to re-establish himself as the first-choice full-back.

Against inferior opposition, Jonathan Davies will be expected to sparkle at stand-off, and Karl Harrison, at open-side prop, should make even more ground than Steve Molloy and Neil Cowie did in France. The return of Martin Dermott and Andy Platt gives the pack a solid look.

It is unfair to set this sort of mathematical target, but if Britain do not come close to their highest score against France, they will not be happy with themselves.

GREAT BRTITAIN: Tait (Leeds); Devereux (Widnes), Newlove (Featherstone), Connolly (St Helens), Hunte (St Helens); Davies (Widnes), Edwards (Wigan); Harrison (Halifax), Dermott (Wigan), Platt (Wigan, capt), Eyres (Widnes), Clarke (Wigan), Hanley (Leeds). Substitutes: Ford (Castleford), Betts (Wigan), Powell (Sheffield), Nickle (St Helens).

FRANCE: Van Brussel (Carcassonne); Sirvent (St Gaudens), Alesina (Catalan), Mons (Carcassonne), Garcia (St Esteve); Dumas (St Gaudens, capt), Fages (Pia); Buttignol (Avignon), Torreilles (Pia), Anast (St Gaudens), Cabestany (Catalan), Cartier (St Esteve), Combettes (Pia). Substitutes: Amat (Lezignan), Baba (Catalan), Beranger (Lyon Villeurbanne), Fraisse (Carpentras).

Referee: G Annesley (Australia).

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