Business as usual for Wigan as an era ends

Rugby League

Whatever ideas clubs might come up with to try to tag their Christmas paydays on to a summer season, today's Boxing Day fixtures are the last in the league and, in all probability, the last that can ever be said to mean anything.

There will be the bitter-sweet flavour of an era ending, therefore, at grounds like Headingley and Central Park, when a tradition almost as old as the game itself comes to a full stop.

For Wigan, though, it is very much business as usual. Even if they were to lose to St Helens today - and anything is possible on Boxing Day, as the last 100 years have demonstrated - they would still need only five points from their last four matches to win the Stones Centenary Championship, and that is assuming that Saints or Leeds win all their remaining games.

Wigan hope to have Shaun Edwards back after missing last Sunday's pre- festive hiccup at Oldham, but Kelvin Skerrett is likely to be missing, Gary Connolly has a suspect groin and Craig Murdock could be out for the rest of this transitional season with a hamstring injury.

The Wigan coach, Graeme West, believes that the astonishing defeat at Watersheddings has acted as a wake-up call to a side who were not playing well, reminding them that the title is not safe yet - not quite.

Saints' injury problems, however, make Wigan's pale into insignificance. Their coach, Eric Hughes, already knows that he will be without key players of the calibre of Paul Newlove, Anthony Sullivan, Chris Joynt and the suspended Bobbie Goulding. He has a number of other players struggling for fitness as well and it could be a very patched-up St Helens side that takes the field at Central Park.

Dean Bell's dissatisfaction with his Leeds squad has been shown over the last week by his approaches for the Batley scrum-half, Glen Tomlinson, and the Salford three-quarter, Nathan McEvoy.

An pounds 80,000 cash bid has failed to secure Tomlinson, however, and Salford were immune to the charms of an offer which would have seen highly experienced internationals like Alan Tait, Richie Eyres and Harvey Howard heading for The Willows.

For the present, Bell must make do with what he has, which, to most clubs, would look rather a lot. For the traditional morning kick-off against Castleford, he hopes to have the much-missed Garry Schofield and Tony Kemp back after injury, although both they and Marvin Golden face fitness tests.

Castleford had hoped to have Frano Botica fit to make his first appearance in their colours, but his progress in recovering from a particularly badly broken leg has not been quite rapid enough. He could be in contention by New Year. In the meantime, another New Zealander, Brendon Tuuta, could return after a seven-week absence. A former Castleford player, St John Ellis, is in line to make his debut for his new club, Halifax, against the Bradford Bulls, who allowed him to move the short distance between the two towns this weekend.

Ellis, aged 31, joined Bradford at the start of this campaign after returning from a season with the South Queensland Crushers, but his opportunities look limited now that the Bulls have acquired another goal-kicking winger, Paul Cook, from Leeds.

Ellis has initially joined Halifax for the remainder of the Centenary season, with a view to a longer-term deal.

In the other top division game today, Warrington could have three first- teamers available again after injury, in the shape of Gary Chambers, Kelly Shelford and Mark Forster, for their visit to Oldham.

The home side could have the rare luxury of fielding the same side that stunned Wigan nine days ago, with only their loose forward, Howard Hill - one of the notable successes among their younger players this season - the only doubtful starter.

In the First Division, Salford would tighten their grip on the top spot considerably if they could win at Widnes.

Although there have been repeated assurances that Paris will have their side ready for the start of Super League in March, the absence of any announcements on a coach or any players will keep hope alive for the winner of the division that they could be promoted to fill the void.

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
TVSPOILER ALERT: It's all coming together as series returns to form
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine