Rugby League: Platt takes over as Test captain: Schofield's replacement announced

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The Independent Online
GREAT BRITAIN have solved the problem of the enforced absence of their regular captain, Garry Schofield, by handing the responsibility for leading the side against France next Friday to Andy Platt. It might seem odd to prefer Platt to three former Test captains in the squad named yesterday, but there is logic behind the decision of the coach, Malcolm Reilly.

Unlike Ellery Hanley, Shaun Edwards and Jonathan Davies, Platt is certain, barring serious injury, to be in the starting line-up for the series with New Zealand this autumn. He is also the player, beyond any of his peers, who commands the greatest respect within the game. 'It isn't the nicest way to get the job,' the Wigan prop forward said, referring to Schofield's unavailability following suspension by Leeds. 'I've a lot of respect for Garry and I hope he can get things sorted out in time for us all to work together to prepare for the Kiwis.'

By his own admission, Platt's previous experience of captaining a Great Britain side was not a roaring success - a 30-0 defeat at Manly on the 1988 tour of Australia. Apart from that, his knowledge of the role amounts to a couple of games in charge at St Helens before his transfer to Wigan.

'I won't do anything differently in my own game,' he said. 'I'm going to be a novice captain, but there are three other guys there with a wealth of experience that I can call upon.'

Platt is ideally qualified to lead by example and he has a thoroughly seasoned side to lead. Containing no uncapped players, it has five - including Platt - originally selected for the Test in France last month who missed that game for various reasons.

It does not, however, include Martin Offiah, who missed the French Test with an ankle njury. That problem is the stated reason for his omission, though there is some exasperation at his perceived lack of enthusiasm for routine commitments.

Four players are recalled after a slightly longer absence from the Test scene. Karl Fairbank and Karl Harrison both toured last summer, but Davies and Alan Tait have not figured since last year's Tests against France.

Davies, who captained Britain on his last appearance, in Perpignan, was 'shocked', but pleasantly so as he is likely to fill the stand-off position that he has always regarded as his natural home. 'After missing the World Cup final and then being out with injury, I thought that was it,' he said.

No sooner was the squad named than the club-versus-country arguments began again. Wigan's request for their five players to be released for next Wednesday's match against Leigh was refused while Widnes, who have four in the squad, want to bring their match against Bradford on the same night forward to Monday.

GREAT BRITAIN SQUAD (for British Coal international v France, Headingley, Friday 2 April): G Connolly (St Helens), J Davies (Widnes), J Devereux (Widnes), S Edwards (Wigan), M Ford (Castleford), A Hunte (St Helens), P Newlove (Featherstone), D Powell (Sheffield), S Spruce (Widnes), A Tait (Leeds), D Betts, P Clarke, M Dermott (all Wigan), R Eyres (Widnes), K Fairbank (Bradford), E Hanley (Leeds), K Harrison (Halifax), S Nickle (St Helens), A Platt (Wigan, capt).

FRANCE: P Chamorin; C Sirvent, A Alesina, D Despin, J-M Garcia; G Dumas, P Fages; T Buttignol, P Torreilles, E Attia, D Cabestany, J-L Combettes, T Amat.