ENGLAND coach Tony Smith to keep preliminary World Cup squad secret until final selection after October 10.
IT is just over four weeks since Paul Deacon overheard that his life was in danger as he lay on a treatment table at Huddersfield's Galpharm Stadium with blood pouring from his mouth after his upper jaw had been smashed by New Zealand's Nigel Vagana in the Tri-Nations. But already the Great Britain scrum-half has set his sights a February comeback at the same ground for Bradford in the World Club Challenge against Wests Tigers."I can't wait to get back playing again," said Deacon, speaking publicly for the first time since the controversial incident in Britain's 38-12 win against the Kiwis on November 12. "I can eat what I want now - I had my first steak last week. I go back to see the specialist on December 22 and hopefully he'll give me the all-clear to start full training again."Deacon had enjoyed his best half-hour as an international player before he was hit by Vagana's swinging arm. "I didn't realise what I'd done at first," he said. "It was only at half-time when Brian Noble [Britain's coach] came back into the changing room and I heard the doctor, who was treating me, tell him it could be life-threatening. That was a bit of a shock."Still, the 26-year-old insists he holds no grudge against Vagana. "I've seen a lot worse tackles do a lot less damage," he added, refusing to be drawn on how he felt watching Vagana play in the final two weeks later after serving only a one-match suspension. "I don't want to comment on that, but I'll talk to Nigel no problem."- - - - -Andy Wilson is the rugby league writer for The Guardian and The Observer newspapers in the UK. We thank them both in reproducing Andy's article here.
THE Celtic Crusaders will launch the latest attempt to establish a professional club in Wales on February 12 when they face London Skolars at Bridgend's Brewery Field in the Northern Rail Cup. It is more than nine years since the demise of the one-season South Wales Dragons, but the Crusaders chief executive Chris O'Callaghan, a former Aberavon rugby union player and coach, insists that the new club's priority will be earning promotion from National League Two as part of a plan to reach the Super League.The Crusaders are backed by Leighton Samuel, the businessman behind the Celtic Warriors union franchise that was wound up last year, and have recruited John Dixon from Wayne Bennett's Brisbane Broncos staff to work with the former Wales international Kevin Ellis.Dixon has signed six Australian players who will arrive this week and, according to O'Callaghan, form "the spine" of an otherwise Welsh squad. [The Australian players are understood to include Michael Ryan, Tony Duggan, Damien Quinn, Jace Van Dijk and Matt Jobson.] Dixon said: "The most important thing if we're going to get the game going down here is to have a team that can challenge for promotion to National League One straight away."In an ideal world we'd love to have an all-Welsh team but it's a few years too late for us to build a side around the guys who went north like Allan Bateman and John Devereux. So we've gone to Australia rather than the north of England to get the spine of our team, although there is plenty of local talent coming through the Conference clubs down here to build around."The Crusaders have been given a highly favourable draw in the Northern Rail Cup being involved in a new southern group which includes St Albans and Hemel Hempstead, two largely amateur clubs from National League Three. But their first National League game on April 9 is a tough outing at Workington, one of their likely promotion rivals."It's a big challenge for us because there's no easy way of getting up there," added O'Callaghan. "We've done all the logistics and even if we fly to Glasgow or Newcastle it's still a two-hour drive at least, so we'll be having an overnight stay and preparing properly. We are expecting nothing less than a major war."The fixtures for the National League's First Division, which are also officially released today, feature a Good Friday derby between Leigh and Widnes, the two clubs relegated from the Super League last season, in the second round of matches.Leigh's former coach Darren Abram, who left by mutual consent in August six weeks before they were relegated, has been appointed to succeed Bobbie Goulding at Rochdale Hornets. Abram's first game in charge will be in the Northern Rail Cup at home to Oldham, another of his former clubs.- - - - -Andy Wilson is the rugby league writer for The Guardian and The Observer newspapers in the UK. We thank them both in reproducing Andy's article here.
AUSTRALIA'S new captain Danny Buderus has admitted that fear of another sporting failure to follow the loss of the Ashes will drive the Kangaroos in Hull tonight. The 27-year-old Newcastle Knights hooker was thrust into the role of a potential Ricky Ponting when Darren Lockyer broke a bone in his foot during a training session in Paris two weeks ago, conceding that the captaincy would prove a poisoned chalice if Australia were to return home beaten for the first time since they suffered two shock defeats in France in 1978.
FOR the second time in less than a year, Brian Noble tonight stands on the threshold of the greatest achievement of his career, one he has been working towards for more than two decades: ending Australia's domination of international rugby league. The Lions coach is desperate to showcase the British game by taking full revenge for last year's rout by Australia.
TWO weeks on from the first bad night of Brian Carney's international career and the wounds are still raw. The former Gaelic footballer from County Wicklow bounced back impressively from his nightmare against New Zealand in Great Britain's first match of the Tri-Nations series with a strong performance against Australia last weekend but the stick he received after that opening game at Loftus Road has left a lasting impact.
LEEDS have won the first stage of their high court case claiming that Iestyn Harris was in breach of contract when he joined Bradford Bulls last summer.