Britain forced to grapple with lack of hookers

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The Independent Online

Great Britain face a crisis at hooker for next month's Test series against Australia, with both Keiron Cunningham and Terry Newton ruled out for at least the first Test.

Cunningham, kept in rugby league with the help of central funding so that he would be available for the Ashes, played through the latter stages of St Helens' season with a hernia and had an operation yesterday. He is definitely out of the Test against France next Friday and the first clash with Australia at Huddersfield on 11 November, but hopes to recover in time for the second and third matches.

"Keiron is devastated by the news, but he is still determined to play his part in the series," said the Great Britain coach, David Waite.

The day got worse for Waite with the news that the obvious replacement cracked a bone in his wrist playing for Wigan in Saturday's Grand Final. The initial prognosis is that Newton will be out for four to six weeks, but Waite was reluctant to write him out of his plans completely. "I will be listening to all the medical reports before making any decision on whether to rule him out of the squad," he said.

Waite is left with a major headache. The other hooker in the squad due to be whittled down to 24 today is Hull's relatively inexperienced Paul King, although James Lowes could have done enough for Bradford in the Grand Final to earn a recall.

Australia have problems of their own, with Craig Gower ruled out with his knee injury and the second-rower, Nathan Hindmarsh, also likely to miss out with a wrist injury. Brett Kimmorley has been lined up to replace Gower, whilst Shane Webcke has confirmed that he will not travel because of safety concerns.

Castleford are to go to a tribunal in a bid to sign Wakefield's loose forward, Ryan Hudson, whilst Leeds' Anthony Farrell is to join Widnes.