Rugby League: Captain Schofield out of Test team: Surprise ban by Leeds affects Great Britain

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The Independent Online
A TWO-WEEK suspension from Leeds has cost the Great Britain captain, Garry Schofield, his place in the squad to play France on 2 April that will be named today.

Schofield said he was 'shocked' by being told by the Leeds coach, Doug Laughton, before the game against Wakefield on Sunday that he should stay away from Headingley for the next fortnight. Schofield had missed two training sessions after a minor operation on his ear.

'I wasn't available for the Wakefield match. I wouldn't have been any good to them,' he said. 'The suspension was a complete surprise.'

Schofield described himself as 'very disappointed' by the Rugby League's decision that he cannot play for his country, ironically at Headingley, during his club suspension. 'I'm upset, because it's not a case of me being in dispute with the club. They have chosen to suspend me, which is an entirely different matter,' he said.

Schofield has had a fluctuating relationship with his club since Laughton arrived and made Ellery Hanley captain in his place at the start of last season. Earlier this year, Leeds blocked Schofield's plans to play in Australia this summer although the player pledged himself to continue to do his best for the club.

There was apparent harmony between Laughton and Hanley on the one hand and Schofield on the other during a long winning run, but that has broken down following Leeds' humiliating Challenge Cup semi-final defeat by Widnes 10 days ago. 'My future here is up to Leeds,' Schofield said. 'I'm contracted until the end of the 1995-6 season and I have not asked for a transfer.'

If Schofield was to leave - and there are those at Headingley who believe that is now the only solution - it is hard to imagine him going anywhere other than Wigan, whose stand-off, Shaun Edwards, has - coincidentally - still to re-sign for next season.

The League's chief executive, Maurice Lindsay, also issued a statement yesterday on his attendance at the Cheltenham Festival last week. Allan Sherratt, chairman of Blackpool, one of the clubs whose future was due to be discussed at a meeting which was postponed in Lindsay's absence, has called for his resignation.

Lindsay defended his visit as 'a holidaying race-goer' and said that, despite standing in for a bookmaker on Thursday, he was winding down his bookmaking business as agreed when he was appointed to the League's key role last year.

Kevin Ward, the St Helens and former Great Britain prop, has turned down an offer from Manly to play in Australia this summer. Ward is a bricklayer and was worried about having no job to return to. He has recommended his Saints team-mate, Sonny Nickle, to the Manly and Australia coach, Bob Fulton.

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