Rugby League: Edwards takes on captaincy role against Australians: Great Britain leave Schofield out in the cold for first Test

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The Independent Online
SHAUN EDWARDS has displaced Garry Schofield as the Great Britain captain. There was not even a place for Schofield, one of Britain's most successful Test players, in a squad of 21 for Wembley announced yesterday.

The loss of the captaincy had been expected. The surprise lies in the decision to discard a player of his experience completely.

There was little sympathy and certainly no sentiment from Ellery Hanley, Schofield's Leeds team-mate and Great Britain coach. 'Garry Schofield was considered like any other player. He had the opportunity to play and prove himself like any other player in the squad,' he said.

Hanley stressed the door was still open for Schofield to press his claims for the second and third Tests, but his omission from the opener on 22 October could mark the end of a distinguished international career. He had needed two more Tests to equal Mick Sullivan's British record of 46 caps. Of Schofield's Tests, 13 have been as captain.

'Ellery obviously doesn't think his form is good enough,' the Australian coach, Bob Fulton, said. 'From reports that we saw in Australia, it was half expected.'

Laurie Daley, the Australian stand-off who was anticipating lining up opposite Schofield, was more surprised. 'Great Britain must have a lot of strength in their squad to be able to leave out a player of his ability,' he said.

Schofield's successor is no beginner, of course. Edwards has played 34 Tests for his country, but only two of them, both against France, as captain.

He and Hanley have long been close in their thinking on the game. 'My job will be to direct the pattern of play and carry out the coach's instructions to the letter,' Edwards, whose Wigan team-mate, Phil Clarke, was named as vice-captain, said.

Edwards is certain to play at scrum-half rather than covering for Schofield. 'I prefer scrum-half. I moved to stand- off as a favour in the World Cup final two years ago, but I haven't played there for a long time now and scrum-half is my position,' he said.

That points to Daryl Powell filling the stand-off role, with Bobby Goulding quite possibly being used at hooker.

Paul Broadbent, the Sheffield Eagles prop, was a late addition to a squad unsure of their front-row options. Broadbent was called up as a temporary replacement on Great Britain's Australian tour in 1992 and has figured in training squads since, but he has come to the fore more strongly in recent weeks. 'He is the form prop in the First Division and players in form can force their way in,' Hanley said.

Broadbent was included to cover for the likely loss of two props. The squad shrank to 20 when Kelvin Skerrett's thumb was diagnosed as broken yesterday and an international disciplinary panel will today consider the case of his Wigan colleague, Barrie McDermott.

McDermott has been cited by the Australians for a high elbow on Paul Sironen at Central Park on Saturday but, under the odd by-laws covering such cases, will be judged by a committee of three Englishmen.

Feelings are running high in the Australian camp over the incident, and rightly so. 'We have a duty to protect our players,' Fulton said. 'If one of our players did the same thing, I would expect him to be cited. I would regard anything other than a strong suspension to be a very weak way out of it.'

Anything more than a two- match ban will rule McDermott out of Wembley and increase the chances of Broadbent and another uncapped prop, Harvey Howard, figuring in the Test.

GREAT BRITAIN SQUAD (v Australia, Wembley, 22 October): Betts (Wigan), Broadbent (Sheffield), Cassidy, Clarke, Connolly (Wigan), Davies (Warrington), Edwards (Wigan, capt), Fairbank (Bradford), Farrell (Wigan), Goulding (St Helens), Harrison (Halifax), Howard (Leeds), Hunte (St Helens), Jackson (Sheffield), Joynt (St Helens), McDermott (Wigan), Newlove (Bradford), Offiah (Wigan), Powell (Sheffield), Robinson (Wigan).