Rugby League: Goodway laments Britain split

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The Independent Online
THE NATIONAL coach, Andy Goodway, believes the chances of a home success at the World Cup in 2000 have been markedly diminished by the decision - announced at the end of a two-day meeting of the International Federation in Sydney - not to tackle the might of Australia and New Zealand with a full Great Britain team.

The Rugby Football League has opted to field separate teams representing England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales to gain pounds 750,000 of Sports Council funding as part of the World Class Performance Programme.

Gary Connolly and Terry O'Connor, for example, have committed themselves to Ireland and, with Dale Laughton opting for Scotland and Iestyn Harris and Keiron Cunningham regulars for Wales, Goodway's squad for the recent Test series with New Zealand will be decimated. "It was tough enough before, now it's going to make it even harder," Goodway said. "But they've got to go with separate countries to get the funding and that's more important than my ego."

There are to be 16 teams in Britain in 2000, making it the game's biggest- ever tournament. The meeting in Sydney has cleared the way for Russia to take part, with the other place to be decided between nations such as Canada, the United States, Morocco, Moldova, Japan, Lebanon and Italy. A pre-World Cup competition could determine the qualifier.

Already included in the draw, to be held next February, are South Africa, where the revival of the World Nines will be held that month. The decision to stage the tournament in Johannesburg for the next three years will be a boost to the game in South Africa, which is also to host an extra Test match next November.

Great Britain and New Zealand are to meet at Ellis Park on 12 November, a week after the Tri-Nations final in Sydney. The meeting has also approved a number of rule changes that will apply in Britain next season.

The experiment of having the scoring side restarting play with the kick- off is to end and the extra tackle when a team fields a kick will no longer apply, but the "40/20" rule, in use in Australia, is to be extended to Britain. It rewards a long-range, touch-finding kick by giving the attacking side the head and feed at the scrum.

In international matches, coaches will be able to make an unlimited number of changes, although there can still only be four named substitutes. In domestic matches in Britain, the existing limit of six changes will continue to apply.