Rugby League: Kiwis focus on whitewash

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NEW ZEALAND have made one change for the third Lincoln Test against Great Britain on Saturday, with the Illawarra prop, Craig Smith, in line to win his first cap.

Smith comes onto the substitutes' bench in place of the veteran, Tony Iro, for the match at Watford that could give the Kiwis a clean sweep of the series. Born in New Zealand but brought up in Australia, the 27-year-old Smith played for Queensland in the State of Origin series this year.

The Kiwi coach, Frank Endacott, has resisted the temptation to bring in any of the young players who have so far been spectators at the Tests. That is best interpreted as a sign of how keen they are to achieve their first series whitewash in this country.

"I was tempted to play the youngsters at one stage, but I know what's at stake," he said. "We've never whitewashed Great Britain in this country and, to do it, I need my match-fit players. Smith is a very strong player and will take some pressure off Joe Vagana and Quentin Pongia. It's a tactical move, because I think we might need an extra prop, and also a reward for the way he has worked over here."

Endacott, sacked by Auckland Warriors before leaving New Zealand, said that he has had approaches from English clubs during the tour, but will go home to talk to the NZRL about the possibility of making the national post full-time before deciding his future.

"I have had some feelers from clubs here, but nothing concrete," he said. "I want to coach at top level. It's what I do best, but I'm a patient person and I'm in no hurry."

In the Great Britain camp, Iestyn Harris' chances of playing have improved dramatically. The Leeds captain strained a groin muscle in the second Test defeat at Bolton on Saturday, but reported that the injury had eased considerably at training yesterday.

There is less optimism, however, about the chances of Paul Newlove and Adrian Morley, who both missed that match,playing at Vicarage Road.

Wakefield Trinity will finally learn today whether their application to join Super League next season has been accepted. The independent franchise panel, which rules on these matters, has twice delayed a decision, most recently in order to study a new business plan submitted by the First Division champions.

Bradford have signed a young player, who is tipped to go all the way in the game, on his 16th birthday. Adam Sullivan, a 6ft 3in centre from Hull, is the latest discovery made by Bradford's chief scout, Eric Hawley, who unearthed the likes of Ellery Hanley and Jason Robinson.

"Adam is a major signing for the Bradford Bulls," said Hawley. "We are delighted that he has decided to come to us and the coaching staff expect Adam to develop into a top quality player. He has tremendous pace and a great pair of hands and should go a long way in the game."

France became the first winners of the Tri-Nation Series when they came from 16-12 down at half-time to beat Scotland in Perpignan yesterday.

The French, playing in front of their own passionate fans in Perpignan, used their greater match fitness to see off the brave Scots' effort, scoring two tries in the last 20 minutes, courtesy of Eric Verignol and the former Sheffield winger, Jean Marc Garcia. Scotland now face Ireland in the struggle for second place at Firhill Park next Wednesday.

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