Rugby League: Langer has edge over Stuart

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The Independent Online
AUSTRALIA provide some clues to their likely Test line-up at Halifax tomorrow, even if the key question of who plays scrum-half remains in the balance, writes Dave Hadfield. Choosing between Alan Langer and Ricky Stuart is the sort of conundrum most coaches would like. Bob Fulton, the Kangaroos coach, will again give both candidates half a game at Thrum Hall, with Langer, perhaps the marginal favourite on form, due to replace Stuart at the interval.

Fulton can also be expected to mix and match his props, with Glenn Lazarus and Paul Harragon getting some necessary match practice, but Ian Roberts and Dean Pay standing by to face the likely Great Britain prop, Karl Harrison.

Elsewhere, a slight neck injury keeps Steve Renouf out of the backline. Andrew Ettingshausen moves to centre with Wendell Sailor getting another chance to impress on the wing. Greg Florimo is one substitute and must be close to claiming that role in the first John Smith's Test at Wembley next Saturday.

Halifax face a dramatic change of gear, from beating Doncaster 72-0 last Sunday to taking on the best side in the world. 'But we will handle it well,' their Australian coach, Steve Simms, said. 'We've got a lot of confidence. Other sides have been expecting to lose.'

Halifax are still without Grant Anderson and Michael Jackson, but will otherwise be at full strength. Simms is interested in filling his one vacant import spot with an Australian squad member at the end of this tour, but it will not be Bradley Clyde, who has decided to spend the time before the start of the Australian season travelling around Europe.

There are bound to be comparisons made at Headingley tomorrow, where the new Great Britain stand-off, Daryl Powell, will be in opposition to the man he has displaced, Leeds' Garry Schofield.

The outstanding match, however, is between second-placed Bradford Northern and St Helens, who are lying third and who continue with the successful experiment of playing the versatile Phil Veivers at hooker.

The leaders Wigan should have the Great Britain forwards Phil Clarke and Denis Betts back against Salford, who are likely to move the former Wigan player, Sam Panapa, back to stand-off in the absence of the injured Steve Blakeley. The Wigan centre, Barrie-Jon Mather, has had his comeback plans deferred. He has not played this season, following shoulder surgery.

Halifax: S Hampson; J Bentley, J Schuster, G Hallas, M Preston; M Hagan, W Parker; K Harrison, R Southernwood, J Fieldhouse, P Moriarty, M Perrett, G Divorty. Substitutes: R Smith, S Greenwood, L Harland, J Lawless.

AUSTRALIA: B Mullins (Canberra); M Hancock (Brisbane), M Meninga (Canberra, capt), A Ettingshausen (Cronulla), W Sailor (Brisbane); L Daley (Canberra), R Stuart (Canberra); G Lazarus (Brisbane), S Walters (Canberra), P Harragon (Newcastle), P Sironen (Balmain), B Clyde (Canberra), B Fittler (Penrith). Substitutes: A Langer (Brisbane), G Florimo (North Sydney), I Roberts (Manly), D Pay (Canterbury).

Referee: John Holdsworth (Kippax).