Wigan rest internationals on eve of call-up for World Cup

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The Independent Online
For aspiring World Cup players, this weekend marks the last chance to impress, or the last chance to get injured, before England's squad is named on Tuesday, writes Dave Hadfield.

By a rare piece of prescient central planning, Wigan finish their pre- World Cup programme by playing Oldham tomorrow, which means that a good half of the likely England side to face Australia at Wembley on 7 October - as well as several Welshmen - can be wrapped in cotton wool.

Even without Scott Quinnell and Kris Radlinski - whose ankle injuries are of concern to Wales and England respectively - and with Martin Offiah and Henry Paul in doubt, their last domestic match for six weeks is not likely to be their most demanding.

Oldham, whose coach, Andy Goodway, has been helping the England coach, Phil Larder, in his preparation, won their first match of the season against the London Broncos in midweek, but will feel the after-effects tomorrow, with Joe Faimalo, Ian Gildart and Francis Maloney injured.

Warrington's new signing, Mike Ford, returns to his last English club, Castleford, for his first appearance. He is likely to be restricted to a role as substitute, with Greg Mackey retaining his place at scrum-half, in opposition to Tony Smith, who could be a surprise inclusion in England's 25 on Tuesday.

Another half-back, Mark Aston, makes his second debut for Sheffield Eagles, almost 10 years after his first. Aston, who returns after a year at Featherstone, reclaims his old scrum-half jersey, with Ryan Sheridan moving to stand- off. Sheffield leave out Lee Jackson, who is to move to Australia after the World Cup, with John Lawless preferred.

Their opponents, London, have their usual ration of newly arrived Australians, with the former Test full-back, Paul Hauff, and the Penrith centre, Kieran Meyer, making their debuts. Julian O'Neill moves to centre to accommodate Hauff.

Larder, who was checking on the form of several players in the Leeds versus Bradford match last night, is likely to rest his potential England stand-off, Daryl Powell, from Keighley's match against Whitehaven.

n The Hunslet coach, Steve Ferres, has been fined pounds 350 - pounds 250 of it suspended for 12 months - and banned from the touchline until the start of the 1996 season for verbally abusing match officials. The club's hooker, Chris Watson, has received a one-match suspension.

The former Great Britain prop Andy Dannatt has been banned for two games while the Bramley forward Dean Hall begins a two-match suspension.