Rugby League: Schofield sounds note of caution: Great Britain's captain pleased by the return of Crooks

THERE are decently convincing reasons for Great Britain to take tomorrow's Test against France in Carcassonne rather more seriously than might otherwise be the case.

The decision, after two matches last season which saw Britain run up 120 points, to reduce the French to one Test this year means that this is Malcolm Reilly's last chance to look at players who could play a role against Australia this autumn.

It is not just the newcomers, or relative newcomers, who have something to prove. Garry Schofield, who will move within two Tests of Mick Sullivan's record of 46, needs to show that he remains the right choice as captain and stand-off, even though he is now playing scrum-half for Leeds.

'I still get the same thrill out of playing for Great Britain and the Test record is definitely open for me,' he said. 'It doesn't really worry me that I'm playing a different position for my club. I play with a scrum-half's number on my back, but I still play a stand-off's role. If anything, it could give me a better appreciation of what Shaun Edwards is doing.'

Schofield makes no secret of his pleasure at the return of Lee Crooks, a great friend during their formative years at Hull, to the British front row. 'Lee is the best ball-handling forward, not just in our country but in the world, so I'll be using my experience of supporting him,' said Schofield, who could conceivably reach Sullivan's record of 41 tries before his Test career ends.

The return to the Test scene of Crooks, John Bentley, Steve Molloy and St John Ellis, plus the debut of Barrie-Jon Mather, does not present any problem of continuity, Schofield believes. 'The players coming in have all been around the Test scene and know what Malcolm wants,' he said. 'We can now pick two Test sides capable of playing anyone,' he said.

Schofield sounds a word of caution about the French, however, suspecting that they will give a better account of themselves than last year. 'In the game in Cardiff, Wales were disappointing, but France have players like David Fraisse, Patrick Entat and Danny Divet who have played in England and they showed a bit of class.

'It is never as easy in France as people think it is. The crowd gets behind them if they are playing well and we have to give it the utmost respect or risk getting kicked in the teeth.'

France have been forced to make changes from the side who deserved to win two weeks ago in Cardiff. Pierre Chamorin, who had replaced the injured David Despin at centre, was himself ruled out yesterday. He is replaced by Frantz Martial, with Georges Grandjean coming in for the injured back-row forward Thierry Valero. The strong-running Divet has recovered from an ankle injury and will definitely play.

FRANCE: Frison (Villefranche); Garcia, Martial (both St Esteve), Fraisse (Sheffield), Sirvent (St Gaudens); Fages (Pia), Entat (Avignon, capt); Teixido (Limoux), Toreilles (Pia), Llong (Catalan), Divet (Hull), Cabestany (Catalan), Grandjean (Lezignan). Substitutes: Bomati (Catalan), Couttet (Carcassonne), Attia (Carpentras), Anast (St Gaudens).

GREAT BRITAIN: Steadman (Castleford); Bentley (Halifax), Connolly (Wigan), Newlove (Bradford), Offiah (Wigan); Schofield (Leeds, capt), Edwards (Wigan); Crooks (Castleford), Jackson (Sheffield), Molloy (Featherstone), Farrell (Wigan), Fairbank (Bradford), Joynt (St Helens). Substitutes: Ellis (Castleford), Moriarty (Widnes), Powell (Sheffield), Mather (Wigan).

Referee: J Connolly (Wigan).

Injuries to the scrum-half Martin Crompton (ankle), the stand-off Glenn Liddiard (back), the prop Ian Sherratt (back) and the centre Shaun Irwin (ankle) have forced Bob Lindner to delay naming his side for resurgent Oldham's relegation struggle against Wakefield Trinity tomorrow.

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