All change for Super League

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The Independent Online

The Super League programme will undergo a wholesale transformation next season, with Wigan joining the rush of clubs switching to Friday nights and Sky moving their other television slot from Sunday to Saturday evenings.

The Super League programme will undergo a wholesale transformation next season, with Wigan joining the rush of clubs switching to Friday nights and Sky moving their other television slot from Sunday to Saturday evenings.

Wigan are to join Leeds and St Helens in moving to Friday nights - apart, that is, from when they are required by Sky on a Saturday. The Wigan chairman, Maurice Lindsay, explained that by abandoning Sundays - the game's traditional day for the last three decades - they hoped to minimise the confusion for supporters, "We have listened to our fans who have told us that they are sometimes reluctant to buy season tickets because they are not always sure when the game will take place," said Lindsay.

"This year, our television partners will not be showing games on Sunday nights as they have opted to cover games on Friday and Saturday nights. By opting for regular Friday nights, therefore, there will be very little disruption for our supporters."

The danger of the trend is that it could leave the Sunday programme depressingly thin, with only one or two games in some weeks.

Super League's plan for extra fixtures has been criticised by the Warrington coach, Darryl Van de Velde. Under the new proposals, clubs will play four clubs in their own half of the table three times and one four times.

"It would have been in our interest to finish seventh rather than sixth," said Van de Velde.

Another objection is that the format would leave precious little time for the representative rugby that is needed as the follow-up to this autumn's World Cup. Super League sources say, however, that there is still the possibility of creating a window in the domestic season for that purpose.

Two players in teams which lost their World Cup quarterfinals have been suspended for one match for offences which saw them placed on report. Barrie McDermott, of Leeds and Ireland, has been given his ban for a reckless high tackle on England's Stuart Fielden and Michael Mondo, of Papua New Guinea, has been banned for a dangerous throw in the match against Wales.

Despite their defeat, PNG expect 20,000 people to greet them at Port Moresby airport. The Kumuls won all three group games and their coach, Bob Bennett, said: "There were a lot of people there after the last World Cup when we hadn't won a game, so you can imagine what it's going to be like this time."

St Helens' Vila Matautia has been added to the United States squad for the Emerging Nations' Championship, which began last night, replacing the injured Joe Faimalo. Matautia was still suspended for last night's game against Canada, but can play in Friday's game with Italy.

Saints will play their World Club Championship match against the Brisbane Broncos at Bolton's Reebok Stadium. Super League rejected Saints' request to play it at Knowsley Road.

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