Rugby League: Student world cup stands as symbol of unity

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The fourth Halifax Students' Rugby League Cup, which begins this weekend, stands apart as a model of unity in a divided game, writes Dave Hadfield.

All the major powers in the sport - and a few of the minor ones - will distinguish themselves from their seniors by striving for a common goal.

For the next two weeks, sides ranging from the holders and inevitable favourites Australia, to new graduates like Japan and the United States, will be based at a college near Warrington but will be playing at venues from Gateshead to Bath. The student game has been the catalyst for league development in Scotland, Wales and Ireland, all of whom are represented here.

England, as the hosts, will have the main burden of expectation upon them at Warrington tomorrow when they open the programme of matches against France, who are always strong at this level.

"The student game in England is very strong," Mike Thompson, their coach, said, "with more than 60 universities and colleges playing.

"We have had a big pool of players to choose from, but we don't under- estimate the size of the task ahead of us."

Japan and South Africa have had to overcome numerous obstacles put in their way by rugby union authorities in their countries to get here. Russia, beset by difficulties in the aftermath of the break-up of the Soviet Union, do not arrive until today, and there is relief that they are arriving at all.