Rugby League: Reilly breaks rule in calling up Hanley

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The Independent Online
ELLERY HANLEY will play under the captaincy of Garry Schofield, a reversal of the position at Leeds, if he makes Great Britain's starting line-up for the World Cup final against Australia. The inclusion of Hanley, difficult to fathom in the light of events on tour this summer or on current form, is the major surprise in the 19-man squad announced yesterday.

Less startling is the omission of two of Widnes' Welshmen, Jonathan Davies and Paul Moriarty, and of the regular right wing, Paul Eastwood, of Hull.

Despite repeating the contention that the squad were selected on current form, the Great Britain coach, Malcolm Reilly, confessed to breaking his own ground-rules in Hanley's case. 'He has not got back to his best form yet, but we all know what he can do,' he said.

Hanley played just nine minutes on tour in Australia and also angered the management that has indulged him for so long by entering into media commitments without any consultation. It was left to the Great Britain manager, Maurice Lindsay, to explain the change of heart over that issue. 'The past is always best left behind,' he said.

It is hardly conceivable that Hanley would be named if the intention was not to play him, so that means that Phil Clarke - now a better loose forward by any objective measurement - must move forward to partner Denis Betts in the second row. All the same, it is a little surprising to find Moriarty absent from the squad. His shoulder injury on Sunday was not a factor; Reilly simply believes that others have done more to earn inclusion.

The front-row selection is exactly right, with the revitalised Kevin Ward lining up alongside Martin Dermott and Andy Platt, with Kelvin Skerrett in reserve on the bench. Ward's recall at the age of 35 is a recognition of his outstanding play for St Helens since he joined them at the start of last season, and he remains the one British forward who causes the Australians real trepidation.

'Kevin has expressed his desire to play for Great Britain again. I know him very well and I know he will be determined to go out with a bang in what is likely to be his last international,' Reilly said.

It is harder to make confident predictions about the back division, although the absence of another specialist goal-kicker indicates that Deryck Fox will be at scrum-half, with Shaun Edwards at stand-off and Schofield in the centres. To the cynical mind, there is an obvious trade-off here. If Schofield is to be moved from stand-off he must retain the captaincy; he cannot be deprived of both and be expected to function properly.

Reilly also indicated that Alan Hunte, of St Helens - arguably the form player of the season so far - will play on the right wing.

That leaves Graham Steadman, Alan Tait and Joe Lydon all pitching for the full-back spot, although Steadman starts with the advantage of incumbency and Lydon could be used effectively in the threequarter line for at least a part of the match.

The only uncapped player in a squad which will be reduced to the starting team plus four substitutes next week is Bernard Dwyer, the second-row forward turned hooker from St Helens. He brings the number of players who will be involved in the Lancashire Cup final between Saints and Wigan on Sunday - a scandalous six days before the final at Wembley - to 12.

GREAT BRITAIN SQUAD (v Australia, Stones Bitter World Cup final, Wembley, Saturday 24 October): Backs: Connolly (St Helens), Devereux (Widnes), Edwards (Wigan), Fox (Bradford Northern), Hunte (St Helens), Lydon, Offiah (both Wigan), Schofield (Leeds, capt), Steadman (Castleford), Tait (Leeds). Forwards: Betts, Clarke, Dermott (all Wigan), Dwyer (St Helens), Eyres (Widnes), Hanley (Leeds), Platt, Skerrett (both Wigan), Ward (St Helens).

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