Australia's optimism dented by Lockyer fall

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The Independent Online

Australia's inspirational captain, Darren Lockyer, is a doubt for the rest of the Tri-Nations after being taken to hospital in Paris with a foot injury. Lockyer suffered the injury when he slipped and fell in training yesterday. His coach, Wayne Bennett, said that the extent of the damage would not be known until the result of scans is revealed.

The Brisbane stand-off was due to be rested from this Saturday's extra international in France, but to lose him from the remaining game against Great Britain and a likely final would be a major blow.

The Kangaroos also have a worry over Nathan Hindmarsh, who suffered a recurrence of his knee injury in the same training session.

New Zealand have problems of a different sort, with the revelation that they have no hotel booked for the week leading up to the final and are due to fly out the Monday before. With the Kiwis only needing to avoid a substantial defeat by Great Britain to reach the final, there could need to be some hasty re-booking.

"The League has booked us in to go home before the final," said the NZRL's deputy chairman, Selwyn Bennett. "They did it last year and proved to be right. What they didn't take into account was that we would come back as a force to be reckoned with."

The Great Britain coach, Brian Noble, has ruled out drafting in Sean Long, the St Helens scrum-half who has not played since fracturing his cheekbone two months ago."You have to go with players who are match-fit," he said and is now likely to give Hull's Richard Horne his first outing of the Tri-Nations against the Kiwis at Huddersfield on Saturday.

Iestyn Harris has been for a precautionary x-ray examination on his shoulder following the defeat by Australia, but is not thought to be in any doubt for the New Zealand game.

Promoted Castleford will announce the former London Broncos captain, Terry Matterson, as their new coach today. Matterson has been working as assistant to the former Bradford coach, Matthew Elliott, at Canberra and is expected to arrive in a fortnight.

The Kiwi coach, Brian McClennan, was linked with the job, but the club said yesterday that two other New Zealanders, Gary Freeman and Tony Kemp, had not been candidates.

Relegated Widnes have signed two forwards, Lee Marsh and Danny Heaton, from Swinton as they try to build a side to return to Super League.

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