Rugby league: Deacon is consoled by England selection

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THE CONSOLATION prizes were handed out yesterday as 16 players were named in the England squad for the international against France next month.

The Bradford scrum-half, Paul Deacon, is one of four players cut from the Great Britain squad preparing for the Tri-Series in the southern hemisphere to be included in the England party. The others are the Warrington three- quarter, Jon Roper, and the Leeds hookers, Terry Newton and Lee Jackson.

Deacon, 20, has been given the extra responsibility of the vice-captaincy. The Sheffield Eagles prop, Steve Molloy, will lead the team.

The Sheffield and England coach, John Kear, said: "Steve has carried my pack manfully this season in adverse circumstances. He can lead on the field and, just as importantly, looking at the mixture of experience and youth in the squad, off it.

"Paul has a massive amount of talent and this is the correct way to give him that bit of added responsibility."

Deacon, preparing to play a role for Bradford in their play-off game with St Helens on Sunday, called his selection "a great consolation prize".

"I was optimistic about the Great Britain squad but not too disappointed when I wasn't selected. To be named vice-captain is a great honour."

The squad includes several others who, on their form this year, might have been considered unlucky not to make the Great Britain party. That applies to players such as the Bradford pair, Stuart Spruce and Steve McNamara, but most of all to the Castleford prop, Dean Sampson, probably the best in the country in his position all season, but left out by the Great Britain coach, Andy Goodway.

"We would give the Great Britain team a good old game," Kear said. "There are a few players in there who would think they had a point to prove."

Kear will add four more names to his roster when Goodway completes his pruning before flying to Australasia. Those surplus to Goodway's requirements will be available for the match in Carcassonne on 13 October and the return at Hull, 10 days later. Those games are an important part of the preparation for next year's World Cup, which the home nations will contest as separate entities.

Sean Long, the St Helens scrum-half named as the first Rugby League Players' Association Super League player of the year by his fellow professionals this week, is optimistic about playing against Bradford on Sunday.

He is back in training and has been told by the doctors that his sprung shoulder has recovered sufficiently for him to play. The question now is whether Ellery Hanley will risk him or save him for a potential sudden- death match the following week.

"If I don't play this week, I'll definitely be all right for next weekend," said Long, who is also an integral part of Great Britain's plans this autumn.

Salford's Australian Darren Brown has signed a new two-year contract with the club. The 30-year-old second-row forward joined the City Reds from Penrith at the start of the season and scored four tries in 22 appearances.

ENGLAND SQUAD (v France, Carcassonne, 13 Oct : Backs: S Blakeley (Salford), P Deacon (Bradford), F Maloney (Castleford), N McAvoy (Bradford), D Rogers (Castleford), J Roper (Warrington), S Spruce (Bradford), M St Hilaire (Leeds), P Sterling (Leeds). Forwards: S Molloy (Sheffield, capt), T Newton (Leeds), D Sampson (Castleford), A Farrell (Leeds), S McNamara (Bradford), L Jackson (Leeds), S Nickle (St Helens).