Rugby League: Davies switches to full-back for Test: Versatile Welshman given new role for Great Britain against Kiwis

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The Independent Online
JONATHAN DAVIES will become one of an elite group of players to represent their country in four different positions in the first Test against New Zealand at Wembley on 16 October.

Davies is earmarked as full- back and, just as important, goalkicker, having already played wing, centre and stand-off for Great Britain.

Malcolm Reilly, the Great Britain coach, was giving away as little as possible when he whittled his original squad of 30 down to 19 yesterday. However, the remarkable rejection rate among specialist full-backs leaves room for no other conclusion about where Davies, who has been playing centre for Warrington this season, will operate.

Reilly pointed out that Alan Hunte and Gary Connolly have played full-back, but neither is a regular goalkicker and both are likely to be needed elsewhere in the Test team.

Davies, on the other hand, has the best all-round kicking game in British rugby, as well as retaining most of his outstanding acceleration and elusiveness.

His selection at full-back and the use of Connolly and Paul Newlove in the centres would leave Hunte, John Devereux and the one uncapped player in the squad, Wigan's Jason Robinson, to compete for the wing positions.

The vastly experienced pairing of Garry Schofield and Shaun Edwards will look after half-back, but the forwards present some awkward problems. The absence of Kelvin Skerrett and Andy Platt means that a specialist second row will have to be pressed into service at prop.

Denis Betts has been discussed as a possibility and Richie Eyres and Sonny Nickle also have a smattering of experience in the role, but Karl Fairbank, of Bradford Northern, looks the most solid bet.

That would leave Eyres, Nickle and Chris Joynt in competition to partner Betts in the second row, with Phil Clarke unchallenged at loose forward.

There would not be too much wrong with that side, although Reilly knows he can ill afford to have his squad's depth tested by any injuries in club games next weekend. The finalised team will be named next Monday.

St Esteve make the shortest possible journey for a French side when they travel to London Crusaders in the first round of the Regal Trophy on 31 October. Carcassonne face a long journey to Carlisle.

GREAT BRITAIN SQUAD (v New Zealand, Wembley, 16 October): Backs: Connolly (Wigan), Davies (Warrington), Devereux (Widnes), Edwards (Wigan), Fox (Bradford), Hunte (St Helens), Newlove (Bradford), Powell (Sheffield), Robinson (Wigan), Schofield (Leeds). Forwards: Betts (Wigan), Clarke (Wigan), Dermott (Wigan), Eyres (Leeds), Fairbank (Bradford), Harrison (Halifax), Joynt (St Helens), McCurrie (Widnes), Nickle (St Helens).

Academy's lesson, page 31