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Thursday, 18 December 2014

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World Cup ‘home’ game in county players’ sights

IT is proving to be an intense and competitive Championship season for all of Cumbria’s three professional RL teams.

Whitehaven, Workington and Barrow Raiders, are all embroiled in a battle for survival in a league where any team can take points from any other.

It is a big season for all three sides, each looking to build on promotion from Championship One in September.

But for many of the players, they are looking not just for club success but for a place in the autumn’s World Cup.

For a clutch of players with the Cumbrian sides, there is even more incentive as two Scotland matches will be played in the county at Workington’s Derwent Park.

Britain’s Energy Coast has invested £350,000 in upgrading Derwent Park and Allerdale Council a further £100,000.

The redeveloped West Cumbrian ground plays host to Scotland against Tonga on October 29 and the Bravehearts versus Italy on November 3.

Between now and then, players will try to earn themselves a spot in the sport’s biggest tournament on Cumbrian turf.

Town’s Barrow-born and based full-back Brett Carter is one of the men in contention to feature for Scotland at his own ground, as are his club team-mates, Whitehaven-born Brett and Callum Phillips.

The Phillips brothers qualify through their grandparents, while Carter’s mother is Scottish.

The 24-year-old already has two caps to his name and says the chance to win another at Derwent Park is a huge enticement to impress for his club this season.

“It’s a massive thing, especially for Workington to get the two games played there,” said Carter.

“I think some games need to be played up here, because sometimes Cumbria is a little left out of it in rugby league and this will be a good boost for the area and a massive boost for Workington in particular.

“Everybody is doing their best to build it up and for the county and Workington to get something like this, everybody is putting everything into it.

“The games being at Workington were a massive part of why I wanted to stay up here for this year.

“Being my home ground, it would be nice to play on there for my country. I just hope I can play well for Workington every week and hopefully being selected for Scotland will take care of itself.”

At Whitehaven, both Paul Jackson and Lee Paterson are established Scotland internationals.

For Barrow Raiders, who have lost Cumbrian derbies this season against both of their county rivals, captain Liam Harrison and half-back Sean Casey will be looking to be selected for an Ireland team due to face Fiji, England and Australia.

Harrison’s brother Ben – a major presence in the Warrington Wolves pack in Super League – will also be aiming to feature, for competition hosts England.

That could set up a brother v brother clash at Huddersfield, though there is the small matter of being selected for the squads and then picked for the match before then.

There will be numerous other Cumbrian connections in the tournament.

Hensingham’s Lee Mossop, who next season will join the Parramatta Eels in Australia’s NRL from Wigan Warriors, is a shoe-in for the England squad.

Scotland captain – and their most-capped player – Andrew Henderson is a former Raiders player with a wife from the town and Ulverston’s Oliver Wilkes, a key man in the pack for Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, is also in contention for the Bravehearts.

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