Rugby League: Dumas threat to Schofield's musketeers

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THE game in France is in one of its deeper troughs at the moment, but Great Britain could hardly have done more than they have to help the French put up a creditable performance in Carcassonne tomorrow.

To throw together a squad on the day before flying to France shows a notable lack of respect for the opposition waiting there. It is not the fault of Malcolm Reilly or the 17 players on duty tomorrow, but, in many ways, it would serve British rugby league right if it suffered one of its occasional shocks at the hands of the French.

For all the shambolic preparation, however, that outcome is unlikely. There is enough proven quality, particularly in the backs, to see Great Britain safely home despite themselves.

The half-backs, Shaun Edwards and Garry Schofield, might not be among the greatest enthusiasts for the annual trip to the land of the undercooked steak, but they are the sort of throughgoing professionals who will put the British tactics on a solid footing.

The wingers, John Devereux and Alan Hunte, might be late inclusions, but they deserve to be there on their overall form this season, while Gary Connolly is now an established first choice.

That leaves one newcomer - Stuart Spruce at full-back - and one unlikely resurrection in Andy Currier at centre. Currier's eye- catching form has earned him a recall almost four years after a disastrous first appearance against New Zealand. 'It shows that if you produce the form, you get the rewards,' he said. 'You don't want to be one of the players who only plays for his country once.'

If the recall of Currier represents one gamble, then the front row in Carcassonne amounts to a more imponderable risk. Steve Molloy has been in excellent form as a regular member of Leeds' pack this season, but Neil Cowie and Steve McCurrie only get a start with Wigan and Widnes respectively if someone is injured.

Neither is new to the international scene, however. Cowie toured Australasia with the Lions last summer and impressed as an imperturbable and positive character even when his chances were limited by injury. McCurrie has come through the junior international sides and already plays with more maturity than you would expect from a 19-year-old.

It is still asking a lot of three new boys to gel satisfactorily after their late introductions. They will be asked to do little fancy stuff, but they may still be grateful for the know-how of three seasoned and very much in-form players directly behind them.

Phil Clarke, Richard Eyres and Ellery Hanley have all played the bulk of their club rugby at loose forward this season - as has the substitute, Chris Joynt - so the pack should lack nothing in mobility.

There are new faces among the French, including a newly naturalised Australian, Theo Anast, who was briefly with Hunslet in 1988. They will again rely heavily, though, on the experience and established quality of two players - the busy and creative stand-off, Gilles Dumas, who will captain the side, and the hard-working second-row forward, Didier Cabestany.

Three of the team's stalwarts, Bernard Llong, Yves Viloni and Guy Delpech, are missing through injury. The Cannes second row Ezzedine Attia and props Bernard Cartier, of St Esteve, and Anast, of St Gaudens, all get their first starts in the national side. Richard Clarke, another Franco- Australian, who plays for Cannes, is on the bench.

FRANCE (v Great Britain, Carcassonne, Sunday): Frison (Villefranche); Sirvent (St Gaudens), Chamorin (St Esteve), Fages (Pia), Garcia (St Esteve); Dumas (St Gaudens, capt), Demacedo (Avignon); Buttignol (Avignon), Cartier (St Esteve), Anast (St Gaudens), Attia (Cannes), Cabestany (Catalan), Amat (Lezignan). Substitutes: Despin (Villeneuve), Bomati (Catalan), Torreilles (Pia), Clarke (Cannes).

GREAT BRITAIN: S Spruce (Widnes); J Devereux (Widnes), A Currier (Widnes), G Connolly (St Helens), A Hunte (St Helens); G Schofield (Leeds, capt), S Edwards (Wigan); N Cowie (Wigan), S McCurrie (Widnes), S Molloy (Leeds), R Eyres (Widnes), P Clarke (Wigan), E Hanley (Leeds). Substitutes: M Ford (Castleford), C Joynt (St Helens), A Bateman (Warrington), S McNamara (Hull). Travelling reserves: D Lyon (St Helens), D Powell (Sheffield Eagles).

Referee: G Annesley (Sydney).