Rugby League: Offiah ready for club return

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The Independent Online
MARTIN OFFIAH is in line to play his first game of the season for Wigan tonight, but it will come too late to force him into the Great Britain side for the second Test against New Zealand.

The Wigan coach, John Dorahy, has named a team without Offiah for today's match at home to Leigh, but may draft him in before kick- off. 'Martin has had an encouraging report on his shoulder,' Dorahy said. 'If another examination looks as good, he could come into the side. One option would be for him to start on the bench, but, if he feels fit to begin the match, that is probably what he will do.'

Offiah has had extensive surgery on the shoulder he dislocated in the first match of a loan period at Eastern Suburbs in Sydney this summer. Even if he makes a successful comeback tonight, he will have to wait for a recall to Great Britain's colours.

The Test coach, Malcolm Reilly, gave the side who beat New Zealand 17-0 a deserved vote of confidence yesterday by naming a virtually identical squad for the second Test. The only definite change is that Steve McNamara of Hull comes in for the injured Denis Betts. The forward place that was occupied by the travelling reserve, Steve McCurrie of Widnes, is being held open until after the weekend's games and the Under-21s fixture against New Zealand next Tuesday.

Reilly has been under no pressure to make changes in the backs, where the two wingers, Jason Robinson and John Devereux, performed admirably, but he would have welcomed the opportunity to add a forward of the stature of Kelvin Skerrett or Andy Platt to his squad. It now looks unlikely that either of them can stake a claim for the vacant place, as Dorahy expects neither of them to be fit for the visit to Halifax on Sunday.

For tonight's game, Dorahy brings Barrie-Jon Mather into the second row, in place of Betts, who will be out for four weeks with the fractured cheekbone he suffered at Wembley. Martin Hall keeps his place as starting hooker, despite the return of Martin Dermott from Test duty.

Both sides have dispensation to play their Great Britain Academy players tonight, freeing Wigan's Andrew Farrell and Leigh's Simon Baldwin, Scott Martin and Paul Rowley to take part.

GB squad,

Sporting Digest, page 39