Rugby League: Goulding stakes claim

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The Independent Online
Bobbie Goulding showed England's coach, Phil Larder, that he is spoilt for choice at scrum-half with a masterful display in the 46-0 thrashing of Fiji at Wigan.

Goulding, a former Central Park favourite who was deputising for the England captain, Shaun Edwards, had a hand in six of his side's eight tries on Wednesday and also kicked three goals in the runaway victory, which earned England a World Cup semi-final place.

However, even that man-of-the-match performance may not be enough to make the 23-year-old St Helens captain England's first-choice No 7. Edwards had the role for Saturday's 20-16 defeat of Australia, the World Cup holders, at Wembley and it would be a considerable surprise if he has it taken away from him.

"I am in an envious position with two top scrum-halfs playing for me. I only wish we had the same strength in depth in every position. They are two world-class players," Larder said.

Larder will be hoping Edwards does not go through with his threat to retire from international rugby, which followed accusations that the Wigan captain made racist remarks to Australia's winger John Hopoate. Edwards, who was on the bench for last night's game, strongly denies the allegations.

The England coach showed himself to be hard to please after the demolition of Fiji. "I thought for the first 20 minutes our performance was pretty awesome and it probably knocked the stuffing out of the opposition, but I did feel that in the last 15 to 20 minutes we went off the boil," he said.

Graham Murray, Fiji's coach, pretty much concurred with that assessment. "They hit us hard early and we didn't see the ball for seven minutes. We found it difficult to recover." he said.

"We were impressed with England's top forwards [Paul Broadbent and Dean Sampson] and the half-backs [Goulding and Tony Smith]. I think England have got a great chance of winning the trophy."

England were impressive in victory as they completely outclassed Fiji and they now look certain to finish top of group one with just the outsiders South Africa to come on Saturday. After that, it will be a semi-final showdown with the winners of pool three, which involves Wales, Western Samoa and France.

To judge from their first two performances, England have no reason to fear whichever side they come up against at the next stage of the tournament.

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