Bolger poised for Quins debut

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The Independent Online

The rapid promotion of Ben Bolger into today's squad shows how badly stretched Harlequins are for the start of the Super League season.

No less than seven players are ruled out of this afternoon's game with Wakefield – hence the call to the 20-year-old from Chingford.

Bolger, a product of the St Albans Centurions club in the Rugby League Conference, is a back-row forward who will probably be used off the bench today. "Bob has been showing up well in training and, certainly in the reserves last year, was one of the outstanding performers," said his coach, Brian McDermott.

Quins, who, thanks to the weather, have managed just one undemanding run-out against London Skolars by way of preparation for the Super League season, will also give debuts to three of their winter signings – Matt James, Ben Jones-Bishop and Oliver Wilkes who plays against his previous club.

Wakefield did spectacularly well to finish fifth last season and have invested heavily in extra experience for this year. Terry Newton, Paul Johnson, Paul King, Shane Tronc, Darryl Millard and Glenn Morrison will all make their competitive debuts at The Stoop, but both Damien Blanch and Matt Blaymire are injured.

The Wildcats' coach, John Kear, has tipped the young winger, Luke George, for a big season. "If he stays fit, he will go very close to being Super League's leading try-scorer," he said.

The game is taking place a week before most Super League clubs kick off, because Quins are playing the Melbourne Storm next month in a warm-up game for their World Club Challenge against Leeds.

Bradford Bulls have suffered a blow for the coming season with their forward, Craig Kopczak, injuring his leg in the 18-16 win over Hull KR at Craven Park – both clubs' last pre-season friendly. Kopczak has been cleared of a suspected broken leg but is still set to miss the opening weeks of the season. Rovers also have a problem from that game, with their back-rower, Ben Galea, coming off with knee ligament damage.

The Jamaican Olympic sprinter, Marcel Gray, has been working with Castleford to help them hone their speed for the new season.

For the lower division clubs, the Northern Rail Cup kicks off tomorrow, with the holders, Widnes, at home to Gateshead.Ian Millward's first competitive match of his second stint in charge of Leigh is at home to Oldham, whilst last season's runners-up, Barrow, are at Doncaster.