ENGLAND, who after just three games have slipped out of contention for qualification for the 1999 European Championship finals, have lost Andy Gardiner for this week's semi-final round games in Belarus on Wednesday and against Israel in Manchester on Saturday.
But England's most capped international, Peter Scantlebury, is fit after returning from injury for Newcastle Eagles' 94-80 Budweiser League victory over Leicester City Riders.
Gardiner has been withdrawn by his Belgian club Wevelgen because of injury, leaving coach Laszlo Nemeth with 12 players for England's friendly against Austria in Vienna tonight.
Spencer Dunkley missed the first round of games in the autumn, when England beat Denmark but lost at home to Spain and Ukraine, and is due to arrive from his French club Besancon.
Nemeth has again been given little time or funds to prepare adequately the team and endured a weekend of League fixtures worrying about further injuries. But Scantlebury's return is a bonus and the 6ft 5in forward takes his record haul of caps to 120.
Newcastle's win over Leicester ended a four-game slump after Eagles had won 13 in a row, but coach Craig Lynch accepts his team are now out of title contention. "We have to concentrate in finishing in the top four to get home advantage in the play-offs," he said.
Leicester's Bob Donewald is the latest coach to be disciplined for abusing officials. The American has been fined pounds 100 for comments made during the Cup final defeat against Thames Valley Tigers in January.
Manchester Giants, who beat Chester Jets 89-73 on Saturday, and Derby Storm, 103-95 winners over Watford Royals, improved their chances of qualifying for the play-off quarter-finals.Reuse content