Rugby League: Offiah fit for world final

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The Independent Online
GREAT BRITAIN'S two main injury worries for Saturday's World Cup final at Wembley eased yesterday when Graham Steadman and Martin Offiah passed medical tests.

Offiah played an intermittent role for Wigan in the Lancashire Cup final on Sunday and was clearly unsure of his right hamstring. However, he was declared fit by the team doctor at Headingley and will be able to train with the rest of the 19-man squad this week as they step up their preparations for the meeting with Australia.

Steadman, the incumbent Test full-back, missed Castleford's game at Salford on Friday night with a sore ankle, but he too has been passed fit. The manager, Malcolm Reilly, will not name his side until tomorrow afternoon, but Offiah is an automatic selection and Steadman a strong favourite, ahead of Alan Tait and Joe Lydon, for the No 1 shirt.

That shirt, and those of the 16 other players on duty at Wembley, are a potential source of embarrassment. The Great Britain team has been sponsored by British Coal since 1989, but there is a growing feeling within the game that it would be singularly inappropriate for the side to carry that name on its jerseys in the wake of the pit-closure announcement.

British Coal have been unenthusiastic partners in the sponsorship since their financial problems came to light several months ago. They have revealed that their sponsorship will end after this season. Many feel that despite the Government's partial climbdown on immediate closures it would be more tasteful for its visible signs to disappear before Saturday.

'We are still tied contractually to British Coal, but we recognise the emotive nature of the matter and talks are going on,' David Howes, the League's public affairs executive, said.

The Australian coach, Bob Fulton, will name his side today. Glenn Lazarus, the prop forward, will be able to play despite gashing his head at Workington on Sunday, and the captain and centre, Mal Meninga, will not only play but take the goalkicks as well. Tim Brasher kicked against Cumbria to avoid risking Meninga's recent knee strain, but landed only one goal from eight attempts.

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