Rugby Union: Northern pride threatens to demolish Samoans

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The Independent Online
The auguries are inauspicious for Western Samoa when they play the North of England at Huddersfield's McAlpine Stadium tonight, a match that threatens to give the tourists' midweek team the sort of roasting they received in Scotland.

The North have a point to prove because they believe themselves under- represented at England level and have given a hostage to fortune by saying so, while the Samoans will field not a single one of the side who drew with Scotland.

Since the same players were roundly thrashed by North and Midlands, the weakest of the Scottish districts, the fate that may lie in store at Britain's Building of the Year hardly bears thinking about. "This tour is becoming a hard experience for us," Bryan Williams, Samoa's coach, sighed.

After his side had beaten London last week, Williams gently conceded that some of his lesser players were not yet up to the task of international rugby, and it has to be said that all of these will be playing tonight. To exacerbate the situation for the islanders, the North captain, Paul Johnson, yesterday emphasised the divisional pride of the North - something that elsewhere has gone out of fashion.

The North's particular beef against the England selectors is about the paucity of northern representation in the A-team who will play Samoa next Tuesday, University match day, a sensation heightened by the North's success in this season's Divisional Championship.

Whichever of the North and Midlands wins the match between them at Nottingham on Saturday will win the CIS trophy but the North have only two, compared with the South-West's six, of the choice for the A game at Gateshead. "The players are bound to be disappointed and I can sympathise with them," Stan Bagshaw, the North team secretary, said.

Last night, David Baldwin, the Sale lock, withdrew from the North team with a groin injury. Matthew Greenwood moved up from the back row into the place he reluctantly fills for Wasps, with Richard Arnold, Newcastle's New Zealander, coming into the back row.

Meanwhile, Swansea play Castres, last season's French Championship runners- up in a critical European Cup game at St Helen's tonight and will go out of the inaugural competition if they lose. Injuries mean the Swansea team cannot be finalised until a number of late fitness tests have been carried out.

NORTH: T Stimpson (West Hartlepool); J Naylor (Orrell), W Greenwood (Harlequins), P Johnson (Orrell, capt), J Mallinder; R Liley (Sale), A Healey (Orrell); G Baldwin (Wakefield), S Diamond (Sale), M Shelley (West Hartlepool), J Fowler (Sale), M Greenwood (Wasps), R Arnold (Newcastle), C Vyvyan (Sale), N Ashurst (Sale).

WEST HARTLEPOOL: A Autagavaia (Suburbs); T Fa'aiuaso (Police), S Laeaga (Suburbs), K Tuigamala (Scopa), F Fereti (Apia); C Burnes (University), M Vaea (Marist); B Reidy (Marist St Patrick's), O Matauaiau (Moata'a), G Latu (Vaimoso), S Lemamea (Scopa), M Birtwistle (Suburbs, capt), L Ta'aia (Police), S Smith (Helensville), M Iupeli (Marist).

Referee: I Ramage (Berwick-on-Tweed).