'Confident' Waite seeks solutions to Long list of woes

Dave Hadfield
Monday 27 January 2014 04:38
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The Great Britain coach, David Waite, resigned himself yesterday to being without Sean Long again as he named the squad with only one scrum-half and no specialist full-back for the Test series against New Zealand.

Long, who would be most people's first-choice scrum-half against the Kiwis, has been ruled out by a fractured cheekbone that will keep him out of action for a number of weeks. "Last year we took a risk on guys hoping they would recover,'' said Waite, recalling similar injury woes in the series against Australia. "But we are expecting Long to miss the series.''

The only proviso is that if the squad named yesterday runs into problems and Long is fit, he could be called in. For now, however, Paul Deacon of Bradford, impressive in opposition to Long in the Super League Grand Final a week ago, is the only regular No. 7 in the party.

Given Waite's penchant for switching players around, that does not necessarily prove that he will play there, but he will never have a better chance to cement a place in the Great Britain side.

Deacon has leapfrogged Ryan Sheridan, who was the scrum-half in Great Britain's 64-10 thrashing by Australia in Sydney in July. Sheridan is the only player dropped from that side, with Karl Pratt retaining his place despite, like Sheridan, being unwanted at Leeds, although several others are ruled out by injury.

Players like Kris Radlinski, Paul Wellens, Paul Johnson, David Hodgson and Terry Newton were already out. Yesterday, Hull's Paul King and St Helen's Tim Jonkers were added to that list with shoulder and leg injuries respectively.

The major problem is at the position of full-back in the absence of Radlinski and Wellens, but Waite claimed to be unconcerned about the lack of a specialist in that role. "We have players who have played nine or 10 games there,'' he said. "It's all about positional play and I am confident we will be OK.''

Hull's Richard Horne falls into the category that Waite is talking about and there is also a feeling that Bradford's Leon Pryce could play there. The most intriguing possibility, however, is that Gary Connolly will have a last hurrah in his original position.

Connolly will extend his playing life in rugby union with Orrell, but his defensive qualities, either at full-back or his usual position of centre, mean that he could be of value to Britain one last time.

One advantage for Great Britain is the return of the Australian-based Adrian Morley to the national side. Morley is on a career high after playing in the Sydney Roosters' Grand Final winning side earlier this month.

A 20-man party is to fly out for warm weather training in La Manga on Wednesday morning, without Kieron Cunningham, who is staying behind to captain Wales against the Kiwis next Sunday.

One place in the squad has also been left open for a member of the England A side that plays against New Zealand on Wednesday.

That squad, captained by Andrew Farrell's brother-in-law Sean O'Loughlin, contains a number of players of obvious full international potential. They now have every incentive to show what they can do at Brentford this week.

GB squad: P Anderson (Bradford), G Connolly (Wigan), K Cunningham (St Helens), P Deacon (Bradford), A Farrell (Wigan, capt), S Fielden (Bradford), M Forshaw (Bradford), L Gilmour (Bradford), M Gleeson (St Helens), R Horne (Hull), C Joynt (St Helens), B McDermott (Leeds), A Morley (Sydney Roosters), T O'Connor (Wigan), D Orr (Castleford), J Peacock (Bradford), K Pratt (Leeds), L Pryce (Bradford), P Sculthorpe (St Helens), K Senior (Leeds), K Sinfield (Leeds).

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