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Rugby League World Cup 2000
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World Cup News

The English squad:

Andy Farrell (captain)
Paul Anderson
Paul Deacon
Stuart Fielden
Darren Fleary
Mike Forshaw
Andy Hay
Harvey Howard
Sean Long
Nathan McAvoy
Adrian Morley
Scott Naylor
Jamie Peacock
Leon Pryce
Kris Radlinski
Paul Rowley
Paul Sculthorpe
Keith Senior
Kevin Sinfield
Tony Smith
Stuart Spruce
Francis Stephenson
Chev Walker
Paul Wellens
Group 1 news

In the absence of players widely considered certain of selection - Paul Newlove, Terry Newton and Jason Robinson - England coach John Kear has been forced to opt for youth in his 24-man selection.

The star trio have either opted to rest for the winter, undergo minor operations or switch codes to rugby union leaving England with a young squad with an average age of 24 years. They can take heart from their equally young predecessors' deeds in the first ever Rugby League World Cup in France in 1954 when they returned home from across the Channel as world champions.

In Leeds Rhinos and Bradford Bulls teenagers Chev Walker and Leon Pryce, the England coach might find a worthy successor to legendary wing Mick Sullivan, who also emerged as a young hero in that historic first tournament 46 years ago. Youthful forwards Stuart Fielden and Jamie Peacock can also be expected to come of age, especially against Australia's tough and rugged pack duo Gordon Tallis and Shane Webcke in the opening encounter against the holders Twickenham.

Much of England's success or failure will depend on coach Kear's ability to select a match-winning combination at half back. Skipper Andy Farrell could once again be switched from his preferred loose forward position to partner Sean Long of St Helens behind the scrum. Failing that, either in-form Tony Smith or Bradford youngster Paul Deacon could link up with the Saints' speedster and allow Farrell to form a powerful back row trio in the pack alongside Adrian Morley and Paul Sculthorpe.

Much interest will centre on the inclusion of front rower Harvey Howard, the only Englishman playing in the National Rugby League Down Under with the Brisbane Broncos.

Accustomed to playing under unlimited interchange rule for substitutes in Australia, the former Leeds prop will be expected to put in longer stints on the pitch to help out what appears to be an inexperienced front row.

If Kear and team manager David Howes can instill the necessary team spirit in their young squad and the players can take full advantage of their warm-weather training expedition to Florida, then they might just surprise their fans, who are at best looking for a semi-final placing.