Rugby League: Britain rue Offiah's absence: Holders Wigan face cup trip to Hull

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A MUCH-CHANGED Great Britain squad flew out to the World Sevens in Sydney yesterday, promising to rise above the series of substitutions forced upon it.

The withdrawal of Shaun Edwards and Martin Offiah on Sunday mean that half the 10 players originally selected are not making the trip. 'But we are taking 10 players who are enthusiastic about taking part, and who will do us proud,' the squad's coach, John Kear, said.

Kear refused to condemn Offiah, the star of the tournament two years ago, for his late withdrawal, after a dispute between club (Wigan) and country over insurance cover for the trip. 'Martin wanted to go,' he said. 'I am not critical of him at all, but in the end he felt he had to take the advice of his agent about his insurance position.'

Offiah's agent, Alan McColm, said: 'Martin is in a no- win situation on this. He desperately wants to go to Australia but has been unable to because of the wrangle.'

The Rugby League's chief executive, Maurice Lindsay, said: 'For the second year running, the British game has been embarrassed at international level.' Neither Offiah nor Edwards will be able to play for Wigan against Widnes on Friday because their withdrawals were not at the behest of the Great Britain doctor.

The holders, Wigan, face a journey to Hull in the fifth round of the Silk Cut Challenge Cup, drawn last night.

GREAT BRITAIN SQUAD (World Sevens, Sydney): Tait (Leeds), Steadman (Castleford), Bentley (Halifax), Ellis (Castleford), Davies (Warrington), Pearson (Featherstone), Joynt (St Helens), Clarke (Wigan), Jackson (Sheffield), Medley (Bradford).

SILK CUT CHALLENGE CUP Fifth-round draw: Workington Town v Bradford Northern; Doncaster v Oldham; Hull v Wigan; Leeds v Warrington; Keighley Cougars v Castleford; Whitehaven v St Helens; Hull Kingston Rovers v Featherstone Rovers; Widnes v Sheffield Eagles. (Ties to be played 12 or 13 February).