FIRE DOUSED | After returning to finals action in 2015, the St George-Illawarra Dragons struggled un...
3 days ago - 3 Likes
Gareth Raynor's decision to return to rugby league after a brief flirtation with union has paid off after he was chosen to make his Great Britain debut in Saturday's must-win Gillette Tri-Nations match against Australia.
The 27-year-old former Leeds winger, who was hailed as another Jason Robinson when he burst onto the scene five years ago, switched codes with Leicester in 2003 but struggled to adapt to the 15-man code as easily as Robinson and jumped at the chance of a second spell with Hull.
Raynor will be on the left wing at the KC Stadium, with Bradford's versatile Leon Pryce set to switch to full-back in place of the injured Paul Wellens, although coach Brian Noble will not confirm his starting line-up until an hour before kick-off.
Asked about the full-back role, Noble said: "I haven't made my mind up yet. We have a couple of options but what I will tell you is that Gareth Raynor will be on the wing, making his debut.
"It was formalised this morning but I think he sniffed it through the week with the way we were practising.
"Gareth has looked very sharp and has worked hard. He has been exemplary throughout the camp and he might have got a shot this week without the injuries. His footwork is very good, he is very quick and he is very keen to do well."
Raynor's club coach John Kear, formerly in charge of England, applauded the selection, adding: "The Aussies won't have seen anything like him, not since Jason Robinson tormented them a few years ago.
"They didn't like playing against him because of his pace off the mark and tricky footwork and I know they won't like facing up to Gareth for those reasons."
Raynor will be one of three Hull men playing on their home ground, with Richard Horne set to take over at scrum-half from the injured Paul Deacon and prop Jamie Thackray continuing on the bench. It is Hull's biggest representation for Great Britain since 1982.
"They're at home in front of their home fans," added Noble. "I hope they will not just lift them but the rest of the team as well."
Raynor will be the fourth Great Britain player to make his debut in the series - following the introduction of Rob Burrow, Thackray and Nick Fozzard - and the 22nd player to be used by Noble.
The chances of late call-up Mark Calderwood winning his first cap disappeared when winger Brian Carney, Britain's only other injury doubt after damaging a hamstring in Saturday's 38-12 win over New Zealand, was passed fit.
"Brian has practised three full sessions with us this week," said Noble. "I've got to pay full credit to him. Immediately after the match he started work on his rehabilitation. He worked very hard on Saturday night and Sunday and was ready for a full practise on Monday. It has been a bonus."
Lee Gilmour and Kevin Sinfield, both dropped a week ago, have been included in an 18-strong squad, while the absence of Burrow means Horne is certain to wear the number seven jersey and form Britain's third different half-back combination in four matches.
His new partner Iestyn Harris briefly left camp yesterday to attend the birth of his first son, Cameron Rhys, who arrived a fortnight late.
Trent Barrett has been chosen at stand-off for Australia to replace the injured Darren Lockyer while coach Wayne Bennett sprung a surprise by axing prop Steve Price.
"They look very strong," was the reaction of Noble. "They've brought Trent Barrett in for that element of size. It's still a formidable unit and they are very big off the bench."
- - - - -
Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this article.
More info: www.tri-nations.com.au Discussion: Tri-Nations Forum at http://forums.leagueunlimited.com/forumdisplay.php?f=130