Rugby League: Webster set for Wales debut

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RICHARD WEBSTER, the game's most recent convert from Welsh rugby union, is poised to win his first league cap against France at Cardiff on 4 March.

Webster, who has made just a handful of first-team appearances for Salford since his signing for a reputed pounds 250,000 from Swansea in October, is named in a 21-man squad for Wales' first international in the capital since the revival of the national team in 1991.

The former Lion has, according to Garry Jack, his coach at Salford, made steady progress in the reserves, and he will be a welcome addition to the Welsh forward power, both for this match and for the World Cup next year.

Even more significant in the long term could be the decision of two highly promising young players to throw in their lot with the land of their fathers.

Both Mark Perrett, the Halifax second-row, and Daio Powell, the centre or wing from Bradford Northern, were born in Yorkshire, but they have opted to use their Welsh parentage to qualify for the principality. Both players are only 20, both are Great Britain Under-21 internationals and together they represent an important acquisition for the future.

The squad will be captained again by Jonathan Davies, who was flying back from Sydney today. Warrington hope that the groin injury he picked up in the World Sevens will not keep him out of their Silk Cut Challenge Cup tie at Leeds on Saturday. No news is probably good news, in the view of his coach, Brian Johnson. 'I imagine someone would have been in touch with me if the problem was serious,' he said.

Castleford and Sheffield Eagles, with cup ties of their own to worry about, will be anxiously checking the fitness of Graham Steadman and Lee Jackson, who also missed the final of the plate competition in Sydney, when the party lands today.

A pounds 125,000 sponsorship, the sale of television rights for the southern hemisphere and an expected 50,000 crowd mean that the British club in the World Club Challenge against the Brisbane Broncos in June will come away with pounds 250,000.

'That means that the reward for winning the Stones Bitter Championship and qualifying for the match in Brisbane is now enormous,' David Howes, the Rugby League's public affairs executive, said.

WALES SQUAD (v France, John Smith's International, Ninian Park, Cardiff, 4 March): A Bateman (Warrington), G Cordle (Bradford Northern), J Davies (Warrington, capt), J Devereux (Widnes), K Ellis (Warrington), P Ford (Salford), J Griffiths (St Helens), A Hadley (Widnes), I Harris (Warrington), M Jones (Hull), I Marlow (Wakefield), P Moriarty (Widnes), G Pearce (Ryedale- York), M Perrett (Halifax), R Phillips (Warrington), D Powell (Bradford Northern), A Sullivan (St Helens), R Webster (Salford), B Williams (Carlisle), P Williams, D Young (both Salford).