Rugby League: Lydon to lead the Lions' challenge

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The Independent Online
Joe Lydon, who resigned as football manager at Wigan in January, is to spearhead Great Britain's efforts to become world champions in the newly created role of technical director.

Lydon, aged 33 and capped 30 times in a dazzling playing career, has thus been retained by the code in which he made his name. There were rival offers for his services from rugby union, with both Newcastle and Bath believed to be in the hunt, but he has opted to stay in league, in a job he describes as "a massive challenge".

He will be in charge of international squads and schedules as well as playing an important role in developing young talent. Lydon will also be, in effect, Great Britain team manager and will recommend who should become the next Test coach.

"There were some other options, but when this opportunity came up I was very excited," he said. "It didn't take me long to decide that this was what I wanted to do."

Lydon, who combines a university education and considerable communication skills with his outstanding playing record, will be the most powerful young man of his generation in the game.

He wasted no time yesterday in declaring his objective. "My dream is to take a series off Australia, both at home and away, and to become world champions at Test level," he said.

"That's the goal and I'd like to think I can guarantee success, even if it puts a lot of pressure on me. I think we should put pressure on ourselves."

Lydon will also have a role to play in the moves towards reunification with the amateur game's governing body, Barla, talks on which resume in June.

St Helens and the Bradford Bulls are still on course for a repeat of last year's memorable Silk Cut Challenge Cup final, having been drawn in this year's semi-finals.

Saints will play Salford at Central Park, Wigan, in the first semi-final on 22 March, while in a repeat of last year's semi-final, Bradford meet Leeds at the McAlpine Stadium in Huddersfield a week later.

Last year's finalists will both be strong favourites to go through, although Salford have shown some impressive form in reaching only their third semi- final since the war.

Leeds will inevitably be haunted by the thrashing they suffered at Bradford's hands in the equivalent match last season, but an extensively rebuilt side will be out to show they are a far tougher proposition.

SILK CUT CHALLENGE CUP Semi-final draw: St Helens v Salford (Central Park, 22 March); Bradford v Leeds (McAlpine Stadium, 29 March).

Keighley Cougars are likely to be without forwards Robbie Roberts and Steve Hall for tomorrow night's game against Hull. Both suffered knee injuries in the cup quarter-final against St Helens.