Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A week is a long time...

... in politics apparently. It must seem like an even longer time in sport for Brian Noble and the Great Britain boys.

This time last week the players would have still been basking in the reflected glory of their outstanding performance in Sydney and preparing to book their spot in the Tri Nations final by turning over the Kiwis. Sadly, it appears that there was a little too much basking, and not enough thinking or working going on as Britain were rolled over by an enthusiastic Kiwi outfit 34-4.

Scrum half Sean Long was then involved (or not) in some unspecified shenanigans (or not) on the flight back from New Zealand to Australia which may (or may not) have involved the consumption of alcohol in breach of a ban that may (or may not) have been in place. Alternatively, if you believe the official story he was mentally and physically exhausted and needed to come home to be with his heavily pregnant partner. Either way up, it has provided an unwelcome distraction at a time when the focus needed to be on the must-win game against the Aussies in Brisbane this coming Saturday.

In a bid to seal their place in the final, coach Brian Noble has made a number of changes to the side beaten last week. Hull half-back Richard Horne replaces Long for his first competitive game since the Grand Final a month ago while Sean O'Loughlin returns to the side after missing last week's debacle through injury. Gareth Ellis moves forward to the second row and Jamie Peacock to prop while Adrian Morley is among seven replacements to be trimmed to four.

Perhaps the most surprising change is the dropping of Hull centre Kirk Yeaman to be replaced by Martin Gleeson, who was himself dropped after a below par performance in GB's first game of the series. Yeaman wasn't the worst player in a GB jersey last weekend, and played a full part in the previous week's win in Sydney yet appears to have been a sacrificial lamb to enable Noble to bring back another of the tried (and failed) old guard. One of the criticisms of Noble's selection policy since he took on the GB job is that it has had an air of "jobs for the boys" about it rather than players being picked on form. This selection does nothing to quiet those accusations.

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