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NEW ZEAL FOR BATTLE; Young Lions make their bid for fame.

Denis Betts is hoping history will repeat itself in the next five weeks as Great Britain bid to produce some new heroes Down Under.

Six years ago Betts, Phil Clarke, Bobbie Goulding and Lee Jackson established themselves on the world stage as the Lions pulled of a shock series win over the Kiwis.

Now vice-captain Betts and Goulding are the experienced lynchpins of another young and mainly untried squad that flies out from Manchester this morning on their five-Test tour of New Zealand, Papua-New Guinea, and Fiji.

"In 1990 we had half a dozen players who proved themselves and became internationals for the next four or five years - if we use this tour right we can do the same again,'' said Betts.

Warrington's Paul Sculthorpe, 19 on Sunday, and Iestyn Harris, St Helens hooker Keiron Cunningham, Wigan's Kris Radlinski and Adrian Morley of Leeds are the likely lads on this trip.

"It's make or break for certain people, they'll have to stand up and be counted and show what they can do on the field,'' added Betts.

Without a money-spinning Australian leg, the tour threatens to run up losses of around pounds 700,000 after the New Zealand Rugby League refused to underwrite the costs of the trip .

Despite the cash worries, Betts warned that New Zealand would be a very tough nut to crack after the Lions series win against the odds in 1990.

''The Kiwis were expected to beat us then and didn't,'' he said.

"They have been smarting ever since and they will be a lot more wary and determined this time.

"Their coach, Frank Endacott, is assistant boss at my club, the Auckland Warriors and he sees this series as the highlight of his career.

"And the birth of the Warriors has given the New Zealand squad a huge leg-up in terms of strength in depth.

"Australia are the best team in the world by quite a way because they have games like our recent Premiership final every week in terms of intensity and quality.

"But we are rapidly catching up and the switch in Great Britain to summer rugby can only create better and more skilful players.

''And I am sure that if we can create the same spirit as 1990 when everyone in the squad felt they were one team, we won't go wrong.''

But Phil Larder's men face double trouble when they face Papua New Guinea next Saturday - choking heat and a giant pack.

The Papuans, now coached by Aussie Bob Bennett, have always suffered from a lack of height and weight in the forwards. But the Lions are in for a shock when they play Bennett's side in Lae.

Papua's pack will average 17-stone a man, with six footers David Westley and Bruce Mamando from the Canberra Raiders in their line-up plus an 18- stone powerhouse called Ben Biri.

Bennett, younger brother of Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett is convinced his team will beat Britain after choosing Lae for its heat and humidity.

"It will be so hot the Poms won't be able to breathe and our forwards will run at them all day,'' he said.

And Papua's brilliant scrum half Adrian Lam has applied for special permission from the Australian Rugby League to play against Britain.

Lam stars for ARL club Sydney City Roosters, but is hoping he can play against the Super League-backed Lions.

If the Super League rift can be healed in the next couple of weeks, there are contingency plans for Britain to fly on to Australia for a couple of games at the end of the tour.

"Plans can be put in place if we were to get the green light," said manager Phil Lowe.

"It's all in the hands of the courts. Everybody wants to play Australia, especially from a financial point of view.

"But it's a double-edged sword. This tour gives an opportunity for a host of young players, many of whom otherwise would have had to wait. It's better to blood them now than in the World Cup."


Wed Sep 25: Papua New Guinea XIII, Mount Hagen.

Sat Sep 28: Test v Papua New Guinea, Lae.

Wed Oct 2: Fiji XIII, Nadi.

Sat Oct 5: Test v Fiji, Nadi.

Thu Oct 10: Lion Red Cup XIII, Carlaw Park, Auckland.

Tue Oct 15: New Zealand XIII, Wellington.

Fri Oct 18: 1st Test v New Zealand, Ericsson Stadium, Auckland.

Tue Oct 22: New Zealand Maori, Whangarei.

Fri Oct 25: 2nd Test v New Zealand, Palmerston North.

Fri Nov1: 3rd Test v New Zealand, Christchurch.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Richards, Martin
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 20, 1996
Previous Article:Top clubs branch out.
Next Article:Deal clinched.

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