Rugby League: Sargent enlists for Wembley

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The Independent Online
ONE Newcastle Knights prop replaces another, with Mark Sargent coming into the Australian front row in place of Paul Harragon for Saturday's World Cup final at Wembley, writes Dave Hadfield.

Harragon, who played in all three Tests against Great Britain this summer, injured his hand in the second of Australia's warm-up matches, at Sheffield. He would have been fit to play, however, and Sargent's inclusion is on the basis of form. 'He has been playing just slightly better, both in Australia and since we came to Britain,' the Australian coach, Bob Fulton, said. Sargent is a former Kangaroo tourist and was arguably the best prop in the country during the Australian domestic season.

There are two new caps in the Australian side, Tim Brasher at full-back and Steve Renouf in the centres. On paper, Brasher's lack of first-grade experience in the position looks risky, but he has played with great aplomb in all three preparatory games. Renouf's pace makes him the ideal partner for Mal Meninga.

Elsewere, Fulton has stuck with tried and tested options. Brisbane's Willie Carne and Michael Hancock retain wing roles, despite Graham Mackay scoring four tries at Huddersfield, and Paul Sironen and Bob Lindner win the battle for second-row places

'When everything is equal, as it is in those positions, you go for the incumbent Test players,' Fulton said. 'It's a well-balanced side and I'm pretty excited about it.'

The World Cup final is now certain to set a world record for an international match. Ticket sales have topped 70,500, beating the previous figure of 70,204 for the Ashes Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1932.

The former Great Britain scrum-half, Andy Gregory, plays his first match for six weeks when he returns for Leeds against the Yorkshire Cup winners, Wakefield Trinity, tonight. Gregory lost his chance to stake a claim for a World Cup final place when he needed knee surgery last month. 'He has been training and he looks fine,' the Leeds coach, Doug Laughton, said.

Leeds will be without their three current Great Britain players at Belle Vue. John Gallagher makes a rare first-team appearance in place of the full-back, Alan Tait, while Craig Innes moves to stand-off to cover for Garry Schofield and Andy Goodway replaces Ellery Hanley at loose forward.

Wakefield, without a win in the First Division this season, could face protests from their supporters over their sponsorship by British Coal. Great Britain will play in British Coal-sponsored kit at Wembley, despite a growing feeling that the association is in bad taste.

AUSTRALIA: T Brasher (Balmain); W Carne, S Renouf (both Brisbane), M Meninga (Canberra, capt), M Hancock (Brisbane); B Fittler (Penrith), A Langer; G Lazarus (both Brisbane), S Walters (Canberra), M Sargent (Newcastle), P Sironen (Balmain), B Lindner (Wests), B Clyde (Canberra). Substitutes: J Cartwright (Penrith), D Gillespie (Wests), C Johns, K Walters (both Brisbane).