Rugby League: Laughton hoping ancient tour history repeats itself: Schofield recalled in favoured stand-off position

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The Independent Online
THE Leeds coach, Doug Laughton, tries to turn the clock back 16 years tonight when the Australians come to Headingley.

Laughton was the player-coach at Widnes when they became the last club side to beat the Kangaroos in 1978. To add a little extra piquancy, that tour was captained by the current Australian coach, Bob Fulton, and there is no doubt that both men remember that

October night at Naughton Park well.

'They had plenty of complaints about the result that night, especially about the referee,' Laughton recalls of his side's 11-10 victory. 'They'll have plenty of complaints if they lose this one as well.'

Laughton does not fully go along with the theory that playing Australia immediately before the match they regard as an unofficial fourth Test at Wigan on Saturday could help Leeds to get under their guard. 'The Australians will be formidable at any time on their tour,' he said. 'Having said that, I didn't think they were all that impressive against Cumbria.'

Leeds will be without their captain and Great Britain coach, Ellery Hanley, tonight. He has a torn muscle at the back of his thigh and will be out for two weeks.

Gary Mercer has been passed fit, however, and moves to loose forward. Even more significant, with the John Smith's Test series looming, is that Garry Schofield starts at stand-off, in direct opposition to Australia's first choice in the position, Laurie Daley, with Graham Holroyd relegated to the bench.

The Australian Rugby League will make a decision on Fulton's request for a replacement prop to cover for the absence of the

injured Glenn Lazarus and the suspended Paul Harragon after tonight's match.

It is almost impossible for a new player to arrive in time for the Wigan match, however, so a back- rower will have to be moved up to partner Ian Roberts in one of the most demanding matches of the tour.

After all the talk of revolution and predictions of blood on the carpets at Chapeltown Road, today's meeting of the League's clubs is shaping to be an anticlimax.

The far-reaching proposals in the report, 'Framing the Future', have been twice diluted, to the point where, if the amendments tabled by Ryedale-York and Batley, reluctantly supported by the League's board of directors but still opposed in several particulars by leading clubs like Bradford and Leeds, go through this afternoon, few outside club boardrooms will notice any difference next season.

Apart from a gradual change in the financial arrangements for Second Division clubs and a lot of pious talk of minimum standards, the most noticeable development would be the introduction of a play-off match between the second-placed club in the Second Division and next to bottom in the First.

It is modest tinkering at best and calls into question the League's ability to adapt to changing times, but even so it might be too sudden and dramatic for some clubs. A faction, headed by the Swinton chairman, Malcolm White, is proposing that the whole matter be deferred.