Rugby League: International dimension hurts Scotland

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The Independent Online
Scotland's effort against Ireland tonight is threatened by injuries suffered by Australians playing in England; who says the game is lacking in an international dimension?

The first international match north of the border since 1911 sees Scotland take on Ireland at Partick Thistle's Firhill Park.

While talk of an annual league tournament to match union's Five Nations by bringing in these two alongside England, Wales and France, is premature, the fact that this will not be the worst or least competitive game of the season is a mark of progress in both countries.

The hosts will field a mixture of "genuine" Scots - like the Aberdeen dentist, Billy Gamba, and their captain, the Leeds full-back, Alan Tait - and adopted Caledonians, with accents more Sydney than Strathclyde.

That is where their uncertainties lie, with doubts over the availability of two London Broncos players - Terry Matterson, who missed Sunday's win over Warrington with a calf strain, and Duncan McRae, who aggravated a foot injury in the same match.

The code in Ireland is a little more established, largely thanks to the pioneering efforts of the Dublin Blues, who have five players in the squad, with runners-up place in the Emerging Nations World Cup to show their pedigree.

Like Scotland, they have a captain of undoubted quality in the Oldham scrum-half, Martin Crompton, and there are international debuts - which some students of Great Britain's form over the last few years would argue are overdue - for the Bradford Bulls pair of Bernard Dwyer and James Lowes.

Hull have launched a bid to be elevated into Super League for next season. The club, currently fourth on the First Division but with the prospect of finishing second to Salford, are claiming that they should be in the elite division in their own right, without merging with their neighbours, Hull KR.

Huddersfield, who shelved their own bid for fast-tracking into Super League last month, have been rebuffed in their attempts to sign the Wigan captain, Shaun Edwards.

Warrington are having talks this week with their transfer-listed stand- off, Iestyn Harris, about the circumstances behind him declaring himself unfit to play at London last Sunday.

Britain's amateur players will operate under the same rules as the professionals when their new season starts this month.

The amateur governing body, Barla, has voted to adopt the rule changes brought in by the Rugby League before the move to summer rugby and Super League.