Smith opts for pace in World Cup bid - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Smith opts for pace in World Cup bid

08/10/2008 04:18:26 PM Comments (0)

England rugby league coach Tony Smith on Wednesday revealed he had tailored his World Cup squad to suit Australia's dry fields - with pace to burn throughout the side.

Smith named just four specialist props in his final 24-man squad, with Wigan's Stuart Fielden narrowly missing out on an international recall despite a strong finish to the Super League season.

Instead Smith has chosen no fewer than eight backrowers, suggesting he will favour a top-of-the-ground team on the firm surfaces of Australia.

"Speed is a massive thing against any team that we play in Australia," Smith said.

"It has played a part in the selection process.

"I think we have a fast team, with some electric players, both in the forwards and the backs. Speed and mobility are two of the things that can trouble any team."

Versatility is another theme running throughout Smith's squad, with at least one of his backrowers expected to fill in at prop and others able to switch to five-eighth or centre.

"When you've only got 24 players, there needs to be a certain amount of versatility and I think we've got that," he said.

"If you take five front rowers, that's over a fifth of your squad so that would be a gamble too."

Utility back Lee Smith's match-winning performance in Super League's Grand Final secured his place as one of eight Leeds players in the squad.

Less anticipated were the call-ups for back-row forwards Jamie Langley (Bradford) and Rob Purdham (Harlequins).

There is a place for Fielden's teammate, Gareth Hock, while winger Mark Calderwood and hooker Mickey Higham, who have left Wigan for Hull and Warrington respectively, also make the squad despite missing out earlier in the year.

Calderwood displaces Hull KR winger Peter Fox, who is the solitary player dropped from the side that beat France 56-8 in June, while Langley and centre Paul Sykes are back in the international scene after making debuts against France in the summer of 2007.

"It's a good blend of youth and experience," Smith said of his squad.

"The majority of the team have been together for a couple of years now as we've built towards this tournament."

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