Rugby League: Robinson wings in for Test debut

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The Independent Online
JASON ROBINSON has played his way into Great Britain's side at the age of 19, for what promises to be a hugely demanding first Test against New Zealand.

Robinson will make his debut on the right wing at Wembley on Saturday. Britain also include Jonathan Davies at full-back for the first time in an international.

The Wigan winger greatly impressed the Great Britain coach, Malcolm Reilly, in Sunday's club match against the Kiwis, who kicked to his wing repeatedly, but only succeeded in giving Robinson the maximum opportunity to show his composure and enterprise.

Robinson, grabbed by Wigan from under Leeds' nose and a first-team regular since the start of last season, agreed that the Kiwis had helped him to make his mark. 'But it's not just a matter of how often they kick towards you, more a matter of what you do with it,' he said.

Any doubts that Robinson had done enough to earn his first cap were removed when another winger, St Helens' Alan Hunte, withdrew from the squad.

If Davies was prone to paranoia, he might interpret the drafting of a specialist full-back, Alan Tait, on to the substitues' bench as something less than a vote of confidence. Reilly has not always been enthusiastic about Davies's defence, and the inclusion of Tait smacks of taking out insurance.

In the pack, Reilly has, as expected, moved Karl Fairbank up from second-row to prop to bolster an area in which Britain need to match an impressive Kiwi side if they are to have any hope at Wembley.

Chris Joynt, of St Helens, starts his first Test, completing a second-row of pacy wide runners with Denis Betts, and leaving Fairbank with a responsibility for taking on the Kiwi defence as a frequent first receiver.

The New Zealand coach, Howie Tamati, has followed the policy at which he had hinted by drafting in only three players from British clubs.

Dave Watson, of Bradford Northern, and the Castleford loose forward, Tawera Nikau, were inevitable additions, but the choice of Kevin Iro for his 21st cap was less certain. Iro made himself unavailable for last summer's Test series against Australia and made equivocal noises about playing for his country this time.

Tamati, however, is keenly aware that Iro, although he can be enigmatic in routine games, is arguably the most effective Wembley specialist of all time. Three consecutive hauls of two tries in Challenge Cup finals with Wigan mean that he has scored more tries at the stadium than any other player.

'I did not want to disrupt the squad by bringing in too many British-based players,' Tamati said. 'But in David and Kevin we have two centres who can break any line of defence and in Tawera we have flair and skill.'

GREAT BRITAIN: J Davies (Warrington); J Robinson (Wigan), P Newlove (Bradford Northern), G Connolly (Wigan), J Devereux (Widnes); G Schofield (Leeds, capt), S Edwards (Wigan); K Harrison (Halifax), M Dermott (Wigan), K Fairbank (Bradford Northern), D Betts (Wigan), C Joynt (St Helens), P Clarke (Wigan). Substitutes: D Powell (Sheffield Eagles), R Eyres (Leeds), A Tait (Leeds), S Nickle (St Helens). Travelling reserves: D Fox (Bradford Northern), S McCurrie (Widnes).

NEW ZEALAND: M Edwards; D Halligan, K Iro, D Watson, S Hoppe; G Ngamu, G Freeman (capt); J Lomax, D Mann, B Stuart, S Kearney, Q Pongia, T Nikau. Substitutes: J Williams, J Mackie, W Taewa, J Lowrie.