Rugby League: Fox in the frame for Test place

Click to follow
GREAT BRITAIN have maintained the status quo for the last midweek match of their Australasian tour, but it does not necessarily follow that everyone's Test place is safe.

The side to face Canterbury at Christchurch tomorrow night has a familiar look. The only variations from the recent norm are the presence at prop of Lee Crooks - fit again after a rib injury - and a first start on tour for David Myers, who has been used only as a substitute since arriving as part of the steady stream of reinforcements.

After the disappointment of Great Britain's careless late collapse in the first Test at Palmerston North, there are heavy hints around the camp that several members of the unbeaten midweek side are playing for Test spots.

There is a limit to the number of times that Deryck Fox can be told how well he is playing at scrum-half in midweek before he is given his chance in the Test side. There is a growing feeling that Shaun Edwards needs more freedom to range wide of the rucks and moving him to stand-off and Garry Schofield to centre would be one way of achieving that.

Schofield would not like it one little bit, but Great Britain undeniably need more thrust in the centres if they are to make enough chances to win the second Test in Auckland on Sunday.

Another who could help towards that end is John Devereux, surprisingly left on the bench in the first Test, but now surely due for an opportunity to show that he has put his uncertain early form on tour behind him.

With Martin Dermott (groin) and Lee Jackson (dead leg) both getting over injuries, Paul Hulme has a chance to stake a claim as the starting hooker and there seems every chance that Karl Harrison, who is not playing in Christchurch, could take the place of Kelvin Skerrett, who suffered from asthma in Palmerston North.

The Canterbury team who have been named should not be capable of spoiling a remarkable record for the second-string side on this tour. Mark Nixon, who played successfully for Rochdale Hornets a couple of seasons ago, captains the team from stand-off, but the loss of the three forwards, Brent Stuart, Quentin Pongia and Brendon Tuuta, who are in camp with the Kiwis preparing for the Auckland Test, gives the pack a thin look.

Mind you, the 1990 Canterbury side also looked less than impressive, but that did not prevent them inflicting an embarrassing defeat on Great Britain.

The New Zealand Rugby League is considering calling an inquiry over an incident in which their full-back, Matthew Ridge, was allegedly grabbed by the testicles in Sunday's Test. Ridge went off doubled up in pain and a television replay appears to show a stray hand in a tackle by Phil Clarke and Daryl Powell.

'I would be very disappointed if an act of foul play did occur, because the game was played in a good spirit,' the Kiwi coach, Howie Tamati, said.

GREAT BRITAIN: Hampson (Wigan); Hunte (St Helens), Devereux (Widnes), Newlove (Featherstone), Myers (Wigan); Ellis (Warrington), Fox (Featherstone, capt); Sampson (Castleford), Hulme (Widnes), Crooks (Castleford), Fairbank (Bradford), M Jackson (Wakefield), McNamara (Hull). Substitutes: Lydon (Wigan), Aston (Sheffield), Hallas (Hull KR), Skerrett (Wigan).

CANTERBURY: Atkinson; Dorreen, M David, Vincent, Taewa; Nixon (capt), Bergman; Rangiaho, Culley, Simanu, Neame, Hermansson, Setu. Substitutes: Wallace, R David, Kerrigan, Duff.