Rugby League: Connolly's Test elevation

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THE idea that nothing exciting ever happens in New Zealand has not held good for three Great Britain players who have earned promotion for Sunday's first Test in Palmerston North.

Gary Connolly, of St Helens, who has already started two Tests against France earlier this year and who came on as a substitute on three other occasions, takes the place of Paul Newlove in the centres.

'Paul is a confidence player and his confidence has dropped a little bit,' the Great Britain coach, Malcolm Reilly, said. 'With Gary, no matter what happens, he plays to the best of his ability in every game.'

Ironically, it is a New Zealander, the St Helens coach Mike McClennan, who can claim the credit for converting Connolly from a brave but brittle full-back into a much more convincing centre.

Lee Jackson's return to the Test hooking role is a triumph for persistence. Despite being kept out of the first-choice side by Martin Dermott on this tour, Jackson has continued to produce impressive performances in Britain's highly successful midweek side, and was handily placed when Dermott's form slipped a fraction in the third Test in Australia. In any event, Dermott strained his groin in Wednesday's victory over Auckland and would not have been fit for the Test.

For John Devereux, the tour has almost recovered from a disastrous start. His form in Papua New Guinea and in the early stages in Australia was so poor that he put himself out of Test contention. 'But he has plugged away and come good,' the tour manager, Maurice Lindsay, said.

GREAT BRITAIN (v New Zealand; Palmerston North, Sunday): Steadman (Castleford), Eastwood (Hull), Howell (Sheffield), Connolly (St Helens), Offiah (Wigan), Schofield (Leeds, capt), Edwards (Wigan), Skerrett (Wigan), L Jackson (Hull), Platt (Wigan), Betts (Wigan), McGinty (Wigan), Clarke (Wigan). Substitutes: Lydon (Wigan), Harrison (Halifax), Devereux (Widnes), Hulme (Widnes).

Wigan yesterday signed the Warrington half-back, Martin Crompton, after failing to persuade Andy Gregory, the Great Britain scrum-half, to sign a new contract. Crompton is valued at around pounds 130,000 by Warrington but the fee is likely to be fixed by a tribunal.