Rugby League: Young Britain show their age

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The Independent Online
A SMALL piece of history will be made at Widnes tomorrow when, for the first time, a Great Britain side combining both amateurs and professionals takes the field against the all-conquering Australian Schoolboys.

For a game bedevilled by petty divisions, it is a major step forward at Under-18 level. "For the first time, it's the best against the best," said Ian Cooper, the secretary of the British Amateur Rugby League Association.

Although all of tomorrow's team began their careers at amateur clubs, only Barrow's Paul Salmon is not attached to a Super League club. The one player still in the amateur ranks, Leigh Miners Rangers' Andy Gorski, is 18th man.

Those who have already made an impact at first-team level include Chev Walker of Leeds, David Hodgson, who cost Wigan pounds 45,000 from Halifax, his team-mate Mark Smith and the Huddersfield-Sheffield half-back Chris Thorman, who learnt his rugby league in Newcastle.

Only Bradford's Grand Finalist Leon Pryce is missing from a full-strength line-up as he is recovering from a foot injury. Britain could have used his remarkably mature skills at the Autoquest Stadium, because the record of their Australian contemporaries is awesome. They have never lost a game in Europe since they started coming here in 1972 and their results so far on this tour are 76-0 over the French, 56-10 over a Student XII in Dublin, 62-0 over Cumbria and 56-0 over Lancashire.

The new London Broncos coach, John Monie, is putting his faith in one of his old proteges, Shaun Edwards, for the coming season. Monie watched the Broncos train yesterday for the first time since returning from Australia and said: "Shaun is looking good and I see him as my No 7 this season. It's just a question of keeping him healthy."

His old club, Wigan, are to play Salford in a testimonial match for their long-serving hooker, Mark Lee, at The Willows on 28 January.