Rugby League: Goulding's golden chance: Dave Hadfield says a scrum-half's form poses problems for Britain's selectors

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The Independent Online
BOBBY GOULDING has almost achieved his target of being indispensable to Great Britain's rugby league side to play Australia. The question is not so much whether to fit him in as how.

Goulding's record on and off the field since he burst on to the scene at Wigan six years ago is uneven, to say the least. Four clubs, frequent scrapes off the field, equally frequent declarations that 'all that is behind me now', but at the moment there is little doubt that he is playing as well as ever.

Last Sunday's display for St Helens against the previously unbeaten Castleford was in the virtuoso class. His use of the ball, his kicking game and his level of involvement in attack and defence were all exemplary.

Players in such rare form should not be left out of the Test side. But the question mark over Goulding, who will be looking to reinforce his claims against Sheffield Eagles today, is how the Test side could be rejigged to include him. Goulding is a specialist scrum-half, with no real experience in the stand-off position which is shaping up to be Britain's most pressing problem.

Shaun Edwards has played many times at stand-off, but he has been used exclusively as a scrum-half for the past two seasons. The bitter pill of being moved may be sugared by the captaincy, but is moving him from a role he has made his own really justified?

The alternative might not attract immediate applause, especially from Goulding. He left Wigan because he was being required to play hooker in order to get into the side, but he may be more amenable to playing out of position in order to secure a place in the Test side.

If, as seems increasingly certain, Martin Dermott cannot prove his fitness in time, Goulding's range of skills at acting half-back could make a telling contribution.

The other possibility is to select him merely as a substitute, but that would seem an unsatisfactory half-way house. 'I don't mind where I play, as long as I get in the 17,' Goulding insists, but his preference is obvious enough. 'Shaun is as good a stand-off as he is a scrum-half, and I'm sure we could play well together.'

At hooker or on the bench, however, Goulding's selection would still leave the stand-off conundrum. If Garry Schofield does not rediscover his sparkle, the options there are few.

Daryl Powell, who plays for Sheffield today, is one. The high-risk strategy of switching Jonathan Davies, who misses Warrington's game at Doncaster with a hamstring strain, to a position he has hardly played at club level for years is another.

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