Rugby League: Reilly's spotlight falls on Hanley

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The Independent Online
GREAT BRITAIN'S World Cup final candidates have a last chance to stake their claims tomorrow, two days before Malcolm Reilly names his squad to face Australia, writes Dave Hadfield.

Reilly will be at the match of the day between Wigan and Leeds, where there will be plenty to occupy his mind, but the form of other contenders elsewhere will be monitored closely for him.

Reilly will not see two of his certain selections for the final on 24 October; Phil Clarke is suspended and Martin Offiah is still recovering from a knee injury.

Steve Hampson's chances of reclaiming his place as Britain's full- back continue to be handicapped by a groin problem, the Namibian Andre Stoop filling his position and Dean Bell moving to loose forward for Clarke.

The indespensable Andy Platt returns at prop after a precautionary one match absence with a groin pull, while Martin Dermott continues his comeback from his elbow injury. Reilly will also be able to run the rule over Kelvin Skerrett.

Much of his attention, however, will be focused on Ellery Hanley, Leeds's former Wigan loose-forward. It is no secret that Reilly would dearly love to see evidence of the return of the old Hanley after his aborted tour and further injury trouble this season. So far, he has not seen it.

Graham Steadman hopes to return for Castleford after knee and ankle injuries and that would pit him against Jonathan Davies, a challenger for his Great Britain full-back job. The performances of John Devereux, Paul Moriarty and Richie Eyres, three other Widnes players, will also be of interest to Reilly.

St Helens' game with Hull gives Kevin Ward another chance to demonstrate that he is worth recalling, even at 35, for a last tilt at Australia. A front-row rival is Karl Harrison. He leads Halifax against Sheffield Eagles, who are resigned to being without their captain, Daryl Powell, for a month. That will break his run of 19 successive internationals at Wembley, leaving Reilly casting around for a centre partner for Gary Connolly.