Scotland's 14 new caps for historic first

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The Independent Online
Rugby League

Scotland have named no fewer than 14 new caps for their match against France at Partick Thistle tonight. Only the London Broncos full-back Nick Mardon, Sheffield centre Matt Crowther, and the Huddersfield hooker Danny Russell, who will captain the side, survive from last year's victory over Ireland in the first Scotland match to be recognised as a full international.

Those who are absent include the former Widnes and Leeds full-back, Alan Tait, who was keen to play but only returned from the Lions tour yesterday.

"I still think we have a side that is capable of doing the job against France and of raising the profile of the game in Scotland," said the side's coach, George Fairbairn, the former Wigan and Hull KR full-back who now coaches Hull rugby union club.

Last season's 26-6 victory over the Irish was seen as an encouraging start for Scotland as a presence within the international game and there has been at least one approach from a consortium wanting to plant a Super League franchise in Glasgow.

But the game remains in its infancy north of the border and several of tonight's participants have only tenuous links with Scotland. Victory at Firhill Park over an established league nation, however, can only help in the struggle for credibility.

London's Great Britain tourist, Tulsen Tollett, has revealed his intention of going home to Australia at the end of this season to play rugby union.

Tollett, born in England but brought up in Australia, says that his switch of countries and codes will be a result of the uncertainty over rugby league's direction. "I'm not putting rugby league down, but the politics is turning people away and there are a few players who feel the same as me," he said.

Oldham have signed the Australian loose forward, Ian Russell, from the North Queens- land Cowboys. Russell, who will be 32 next month, made his name as one of Australia's most creative forwards at Illawarra and also played briefly at Sheffield Eagles. He played three games for Paris last season before being forced home by injury.

He replaces Nathan Turner, who has gone home suffering from a foot injury without playing a Super League game on Oldham's import quota.

Oldham's estranged loose forward, David Bradbury, is attracting interest from Hull, London and Salford after turning down a move to Sheffield.

Tony Smith, the Wigan scrum-half, is the Stones Gold Award winner as player of the month in June, a month during which he equalled the Super League record of five tries in a match.