YORK Wasps coaches Leo Epifania and Martin Flynn were set to scout the undergraduate ranks today as the best student talent comes to the city.

As reported in the Evening Press, the University of York was chosen to stage the weekend-long student regional RL championships, which double up as the national and Great Britain student trials.

As such, the best university players in the country, who have been selected to represent the eight competing regions, will be on view in the Minster city today and tomorrow.

And the Wasps duo were keen to take advantage by nipping down the road and casting their eye over the upcoming undergraduates.

"We're going to go out and have a look today," said Epifania, prior to tomorrow's match against Hunslet Hawks.

"I'm sure there will be some talented players there so we're going to check it out."

The tournament will also give Epifania the chance to check on the form of Wasps hopeful Callum Irving.

The York University captain and Scotland student international has been picked to play for Scotland Exiles in the tournament, and is keen to impress Epifania having re-signed trialist forms with the Wasps.

Cumbria-born Irving played six times for Wasps last year after signing on trial in March and he was called on to fill the bench against Barrow this season after injuries and absences decimated the squad.

He is now likely to take up the offer of joining Wasps' Academy as he looks to get back into the swing of things after family problems kept him away from Huntington Stadium. And although he might have to take one step back to go forward, he is keen to get back into first-team reckoning.

"I've only had one (Wasps) game this season, coming on as substitute for about five minutes at the end," said the winger, who was likely to play at scrum-half for Scotland Exiles.

"I know the Wasps have signed a few other wingers and I thought I wasn't really going to get a chance.

"But I had a chat about it with him (Epifania) and he offered me the chance to play in the Academy.

"I had a few family problems and have not been down but I'm keen to take that opportunity and get back into it. Hopefully I'll get back in the first team by the end of the season."

Gavin Smith, who turned out twice for Wasps last year, will also be on view, playing for Yorkshire alongside York Tigers team-mate Billy Greensides.

Dan Hewitt, a fourth player from the Tigers - the combined York University and College of Ripon and York St John outfit - will also be playing for Scotland.

TALKING of the Academy, Epifania has promised the youngsters, like Irving, that if they impress enough, they will come into the reckoning for the first-team squad.

The Academy have already had a few sessions this month, with an appropriate training schedule currently being worked out in readiness for the forthcoming season.

And even before they get down to proper business, Epifania has dangled the proverbial carrot in front of them.

"If they go okay and I can see they're progressing well, I would definitely consider bringing them in if I needed them.

"If someone performs, I believe they should be rewarded.

"If I see some good performances and if some of my players are perhaps down in form, I would definitely consider giving them a run."

The Wasps are going to run an under-19s team, although, under guidelines still being discussed, it is possible that a certain number of over-age players could be eligible per team.

The coaching programme being lined up for them could involve the Academy kids training alongside the first team at certain times, while a few youngsters have already turned out in the Northern Ford Premiership this season.

"There's a few young guys who have been training with us all year, like Danny Brown, Ritchie Hunter and Charles Hoggard, and they've done well," added Epifania.

ON a similar point, Epifania has admitted he would prefer it if there was a reserve set-up in place so that he could gauge the form of squad men.

If a player is not eligible for the Academy, the Wasps coach currently does not get a chance to see him in match action unless he throws him in at the first-team deep end.

The Aussie said: "Back home we have the second team which gives players the chance to impress and play himself into form.

"Here, it's difficult because you can't see blokes playing unless it's first team and you can't play everyone."

Weekend off brings Precious memories

IT was a case of upping spirits by downing spirits last week as the Wasps first team took Nottingham by storm.

Most of the squad and some ex-players took advantage of a rare Sunday off to go on veteran prop Andy Precious' stag weekend in the East Midlands city. The occasion also served to help bond the players and boost team spirit - not that help was needed.

Coach Leo Epifania said: "The good thing is there's no trouble between these players, which can sometimes show up at a get-together like that.

"This team all get on very well and they stick together."

Fuller details of exactly what went on have not been confirmed, but Epifania added: "I'm sure they had a good time."

Precious, 31, had agreed with the club to use the blank weekend for his stag do. The popular prop will be marrying Emma Townsend in April, with stats man Rich Kirby his best man.

YORK Wasps Supporters' Club have reported an excellent surge in committee membership following their annual general meeting.

With three members resigning, only three remained on the committee, with two more needed to make it bona fide and able to sanction minutes of meetings.

However, six more fans signed up to make the new-look supporters' club committee nine-strong.

Louise Ince is currently chairman, Ken Pearson is treasurer and Michael Chatten is secretary. Positions will also be appointed at the next meeting, at 7.30pm on Tuesday, March 5, at Huntington Stadium.

Fender gets the plaudits

THE recent articles in the Evening Press about old York players have continued to bring in a lot of feedback, the latest response coming from former York hero and long-time fan Walter Rawson.

The great Basil Watts and Jeff Stevenson have featured in our "Jubilee Jewels" series, Watts last month and Stevenson today (see Page 34), while the new Lion of the Year Mick Sullivan figured on these pages last week.

A week earlier, the legendary Norman Fender was featured in Play The Ball and it was that article which led Walter - who himself starred at loose-forward for York from 1938 to 1948 - sharing his memories of the great man.

"I first saw Fender play when I was an 11-year-old schoolboy, and what a player!" wrote Walter, who is treasurer of the York Rugby League Ex-Players Association.

"We have had some good second-row forwards in our time, Bas Watts, Les White, Mal Storey, Brian Briggs to name a few. I've seen them all, and even played with Les White, but to me Norman Fender was the best.

"What a rugby brain he had. His positional play was uncanny. He played in three Yorkshire Cup finals, where York won two and lost one, and the Championship Play-off semi-finals in 1932-33. For the first time York had finished as the top Yorkshire Club and fourth in the league to qualify for the play-offs.

"About 1,500 York fans sup-ported them over the Pennines but sadly they were beaten."


1933 Yorkshire Cup final (at Headingley, gate 10,000) - York 10, Hull KR 4.

York: Dingsdale (2 goals), Brown (try), Moores, Rosser, Smith (try), Rees, Thomas, Bland, Myres, John, Elias, Fender, Coldrick.

1935 Yorkshire Cup final (at Hali-fax, gate 14,616) - York 0, Leeds 3.

York: Dingsdale, Haigh, Moores, Hunt, Hargraves, Rees, Thomas, Prosser, Williams, Sharpe, Elias, Fender, Welsh.

1936 Yorkshire Cup final (at Headingley, gate 19,000) - York 9, Wakefield Trinity 2.

York: Dingsdale (2 goals), Western, Welsh, Hunt (try), Haigh, Rees, Thomas, Sharpe, Field, Prosser, Coldrick, Elias, Fender (drop goal).

1932-33 Play-off semi-final (v Swinton).

York: Dingsdale, Brown, Smith, Rosser, H Thomas, Rees, Thomas, Bland, Myres, Crabtree, Fender, Coldrick, Aspinall.

Updated: 11:35 Saturday, February 23, 2002