Eagles prepare to land in South Wales

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The Independent Online
Sheffield will travel to rugby union's South Wales heartland next month to face the current Super League leaders, St Helens, in Cardiff. And Gary Hetherington, the south Yorkshire club's coach and chief executive, revealed yesterday that he had attempted to sign Neil Jenkins, one of the principality's luminaries in the 15-a-side game.

"We were very close to signing Neil last year," he said. "He would be a very good League player and at the time we needed a good goalkicker, but Mark Aston came back to us and he has done a great job."

Aston, ruled out of Sheffield's Super League match at Wigan last night by injury, joined Hetherington, Saints officials and forward Apollo Perelini to publicise the game.

The fixture, nominally a Sheffield home match, will be played at the Cardiff Rugby Union ground (adjacent to the Arms Park) on 8 June, with the Second Division match between South Wales and Carlisle as a curtain- raiser.

The Rugby League is bidding to raise the profile of the game in Wales, and Hetherington added: "We want to bring down our full package of entertainment. It is two games for the price of one along with music, dancing, mini-rugby and a top band with a new sound system. We are looking to show rugby league off on a Super League day out.

"But it is the unknown. We are looking to attract traditional rugby fans in Wales and hope our supporters will not be as disappointed as I was when we visited the later-defunct Bridgend in 1984 and lost."

Perelini, who played for Western Samoa in a union international on his last visit to Cardiff, said: "We beat Wales in the 1991 World Cup, so I remember the place very, very well.

"The Super League has been very good so far as Wigan are shown to be beatable, and it has given every team a chance to aim high."

David Howes, Saints' chief executive, said: "We have brought the Challenge Cup to Wales with us to put on show. Our fans are now used to being on the road. They went to Wembley and Paris and will be with us in Wales.

"We have supported this venture from the word go. The more new teams in the League, the better it is. This is the ideal venue."

Hetherington is in no doubt the match will be a competitive affair. "We have won our last three games against Saints at the Don Valley Stadium. This will be intense, a high-pressure match."