Canterbury pull out of race to sign Paul

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The Independent Online

The Australian Club, Canterbury Bulldogs, have withdrawn from the bidding for the Bradford stand-off, Henry Paul, alleging that they have merely been used to drive up the player's price with the New Zealand Rugby Union.

"We've been messed around for a long time and we don't want to be used as a pawn in Henry's attempt to seal a contract with the All Blacks," said the Canterbury chief executive, Bob Hagan, who called the player's approach "unprofessional".

With the National Rugby League club pulling angrily out of the race, his likeliest destination is Super 12 in New Zealand, although Bradford cling to the fading hope of re-signing him.

"I'm still pretty hopeful that he'll stay with us," said the Bulls' coach, Brian Noble. "I don't think it is cut and dried that he is going. I know he's had some substantial offers from elsewhere but he's also had a substantial offer from us." Paul is in New Zealand for tomorrow's Test against Australia and has promised the Bulls an answer to their contract offer when he returns to Bradford.

The Australian Test scrum-half Brett Kimmorley is being targeted by Leeds as a possible replacement for Iestyn Harris, who seems destined to move to Welsh rugby union at the end of this season.

Kimmorley could be without a club next season if the Northern Eagles fold under their financial pressures, or at best he could face a massive pay-cut.

The Lions and Wales coach Graham Henry will announce the signings of Harris and St Helens' Keiron Cunningham when he returns from Australia, although that will be subject to the WRU coming to terms with the two clubs.

The Rugby League's director of youth development, John Kear, has pulled out of the England Under-18 and Under-16 tours to Australia and New Zealand in order to take up the role of assistant coach at Wigan. However, Kear still wants to retain his job as coach of the Great Britain Under-21 side.