Drop of the hard stuff

Rugby league
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Paris St-Germain face the longest journey in Super League this weekend when they travel to Workington Town for today's fixture. And once they get there, they might find themselves staring into the abyss.

The two bottom clubs play each other in a match that could send either of them on the way out of the top division. Although there remains a suspicion that should Paris finish in 12th place the goalposts will be moved, at present the position is clear-cut: whoever is bottom on 26 August faces the drop.

If Workington lose this evening, it is likely to be them. They will be four points adrift and as good as down. Their coach, Ross O'Reilly, refuses to look on the dark side: "We aren't even thinking about losing," he insisted. "In fact, with five out of our next six games at home, we can turn our season around this weekend. The spirit has been growing steadily at this club over the past few weeks and with the crowd behind us I'm convinced we can do it."

O'Reilly is able to draft in a newcomer to attempt to solve his problems at full-back, now that a work permit has arrived forButch Fatnowna. "He is a specialist in the position who has played at the highest level in the game," O'Reilly said of the former Brisbane and Penrith full-back. "He is also a very good communicator, who will help with our organisation."

Organisation is what John Kear has been brought in to provide for Paris. The driving force behind the British Academy competition for the country's best young players, he has been loaned to the French in the clearest demonstration yet that Super League desperately wants them to survive in the top flight.

"I know that the league wants us to come through, and that puts a bit of extra responsibility on me," Kear admitted. "When you think of having a Super League club in Paris or one in Workington, it's no contest."

They might not agree with that assessment on the Cumbrian coast, but Paris can take an enormous amount of pressure off their shoulders by winning today. Paris showed how important they consider the game to be when they rested their influential new Australian import, Ian Russell, from their match at Oldham last week.

He would probably have been able to play, but Kear wanted to make absolutely sure that he would be fit for what is being referred to as "le crunch" today. Kear also has the former French captain, Didier Cabestany, back after his wife's premature delivery of a son forced him to miss last weekend's match.

St Germain have also had to negotiate the release of three of their young French players from the army, after they were called up last week for national service. "They are all back and they all have new hair-cuts," Kear said.

But in the end it could be Paris's foreign legion - especially Russell and the new Australian centre Deon Bird - who swing the balance today.

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