Rugby League: The life of Reilly less than enviable

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The Independent Online
THE Great Britain coach, Malcolm Reilly, will today announce a 19-man squad for the World Cup final on 24 October knowing that there are no second chances to correct a flawed selection.

In a three-Test series, a coach can get it wrong first time and make adjustments for a second and third match, as Australia did after defeat at the venue for the final, Wembley, in 1990, and as Britain did after losing in Sydney this year. 'In a one-off like this, you have got to be right first time,' Reilly said yesterday as he finalised his choice.

To be right first time on Saturday week is by no means a simple task, especially in the backs, where complications surround virtually every position. The main questions, however, are these: Graham Steadman or Jonathan Davies at full-back? Who should partner Gary Connolly in the centre? And how should the assorted half-back talents of Garry Schofield, Shaun Edwards and Deryck Fox be employed?

Steadman returned after ankle and knee injuries for Castleford on Sunday and came safely through one of his better games of an uneven start to the season. The general view was that he outshone Davies.

There is a growing feeling that Schofield, confirmed in the captaincy, could be moved back to his old position of centre, with Edwards at stand-off and Fox at scrum-half. But is Fox, for all his admirable qualities, the right man to keep Allan Langer quiet?

To complicate matters further, neither incumbent Test wing played on Sunday. Wigan are hopeful that Martin Offiah will soon be available again, however, and Hull do not believe that Paul Eastwood's bruised shoulder is too serious. In any event, the very least St Helens' Alan Hunte deserves on his form this season is to be in the squad as ideal cover for either.

The forwards are easier to pick - at least without the responsibility for getting them to work together. Kevin Ward and Andy Platt are the outstanding props in England, although Kelvin Skerrett would be handy to have on the bench, while Martin Dermott's superior distribution from dummy half gives him the edge over Lee Jackson and Bernard Dwyer.

The desire to get some more size into the second row opens the door for Paul Moriarty as the likely partner for Denis Betts. Phil Clarke, suitably rested after a two-match suspension, must be the loose forward.

There should be no place for Ellery Hanley, not in the starting line-up and certainly not - as some have suggested - among the substitutes. It could still be that he has a few big games left in him, but it would be a foolish gamble to bet on one of them being against Australia in 11 days' time.

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