Rugby League: Great Britain seeking World Sevens heaven: Bentley on a roll for Sydney as dismal Widnes suffer from changes

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GREAT BRITAIN have named a strong squad for the World Sevens in Sydney next month and are determined to keep it intact.

Of the 10 players who will make the trip, nine appeared in last autumn's Test series against New Zealand. The exception is John Bentley, who won his one cap in France in 1992 and has been in consistent form for Halifax this season.

Shaun Edwards, of Wigan, will captain the side. Among the big attractions at a tournament that has become a major expansion vehicle for the code are Edwards's team- mate, Martin Offiah, as well as Jonathan Davies and John Devereux.

Britain, who will be managed by the assistant national coach, John Kear, are seeded third in a 27-team event on 4 to 6 February which will include sides from South Africa, Russia, Tonga, Western Samoa, the United States and Fiji, the surprise of last year's tournament. Ten leading Japanese players are set to defy their rugby union authorities, as the Fijians did last year, by taking part.

Bickering over selection and the release of players wrecked plans for Wigan, the holders, and Wales to compete last year, but the League hopes it has forestalled any objections this time by including no more than two players from any club.

The League's chief executive, Maurice Lindsay, nevertheless warned clubs not to pull out their players. 'The tournament is recognised by the International Board and the Rugby Football League. Any player who makes himself unavailable, other than for a recognised injury, will not be able to play for his club over that weekend.'

Only two teams - Wigan and Sheffield Eagles - lose two players. Wigan are scheduled to play Widnes on the opening night of the tournament, 4 February. Sheffield meet Oldham on 6 February.

GREAT BRITAIN SQUAD (World Sevens, Sydney, 4-6 February): Bentley (Halifax), Davies (Warrington), Devereux (Widnes), Edwards (Wigan), Jackson (Sheffield), Joynt (St Helens), Newlove (Bradford), Offiah (Wigan), Powell (Sheffield), Tait (Leeds).

Howie Tamati, who is two years into a three-year contract as the New Zealand coach, was dismissed by the NZRL yesterday.