Rugby League: Mather is ready forTest call

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A SHOULDER injury which forced him off during Wigan's game at Leigh on Sunday will not prevent Barrie-Jon Mather from stepping up into Great Britain's squad for their Test in France. Mather has made a successful transition from second row to centre this season and is the obvious replacement if Paul Newlove sticks to his decision over his retirement from Test rugby.

Newlove's premature decision came after the row over his refusal to travel for the World Sevens. Talks are still going on to persuade him to change his mind, although on previous form the prospect of a trip to Carcassonne on 20 March may not be enough to rush him into a climb-down.

In any event, the 21-year-old Mather has done enough this season to win at least a place in the squad. His sheer size makes him an attractive prospect against Australia later this year and this is the last Great Britain squad that Malcolm Reilly will pick before the Kangaroos' tour.

Martin Dermott, the Wigan and Great Britain hooker, is doubtful for Wigan's Challenge Cup semi-final against Castleford and the French Test after dislocating his elbow yet again at Leigh.

That is one of a number of Wigan imponderables Reilly has had to weigh. Castleford, who by contrast with Wigan have suffered virtually no serious injuries this season, will expect Lee Crooks, their prop and captain, and the wing St John Ellis to return to the Great Britain side.

Each has been the outstanding performer in the country in his position, while others who may have impressed sufficiently of late are Sheffield Eagles' Daryl Powell and Karl Fairbank of Bradford. These players are not particularly young, however, which makes the inclusion of a few up and coming men like Mather and Leeds' Harvey Howard all the more imperative.

Richard Wintle will today become the second rugby union international to play in rugby league's University Match. Wintle's claim to distinction is rather more tenuous than that of his predecessor, Ian Williams, the 12-times capped Australian wing who played for Oxford in 1989.

Wintle, who also plays for Oxford, was a replacement for Wales against Western Samoa in 1988. Wintle was then playing for London Welsh, who are the first rugby union club to host the event.