Connolly returns to Wigan

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The Independent Online

Gary Connolly has rejoined Wigan after being released by Leeds and goes straight into their squad at Wakefield tomorrow.

The incumbent Great Britain centre has left Headingley with six months of his contract to run (as predicted in yesterday's Independent) after being told that he does not figure in the plans of the Rhinos coach, Tony Smith.

Connolly lost his place to Richard Mathers after starting as first choice full-back. "My policy is to develop emerging players and there is no better example than him," Smith said.

Castleford were also keen to sign the 32-year-old. "But he said he didn't want to go anywhere else but Wigan and we've found a spot for a faithful old servant," said the Wigan chairman, Maurice Lindsay.

It is a weekend of new arrivals and welcome returns in Super League, starting with Warrington, who have won only one of the last seven games, recalling three recent absentees, Graham Appo, Chris Leikvoll and John Wilshere, today against the Challenge Cup winners, St Helens.

Tomorrow, all eyes will be on The Jungle, where Ellery Hanley makes his bow as Castleford's coaching consultant.

Hanley has been busy during his first couple of days as Gary Mercer's right-hand man, leading training sessions and working one-on-one with players. Such is his enduring charisma that his input is almost guaranteed to give demoralised players a lift against Salford.

Equally important could be the way that Cas finally have something resembling a full squad to select from. Apart from Luke Robinson, who makes his debut on loan from Wigan, they hope that Damien Gibson, Waine Pryce, Sean Rudder, Paul Newlove, Paul Jackson and Nathan Sykes could all be available.

Salford, four points above Cas at the foot of the Super League table, have their own returning hero in Nathan McAvoy, back in the fold after spells with Bradford and in rugby union.

Another side boasting much-needed reinforcements is London, for whom John Kirkpatrick is to make his long-delayed debut against Huddersfield. Kirkpatrick has been on the sidelines with injury since arriving from St Helens, but has been cleared to play tomorrow, along with the centres, Mark O'Halloran and Rob Jackson.

The Broncos should benefit from some inspirational words of encouragement this week, as they have been put through their paces by the Brisbane and Australia coach, Wayne Bennett, who has been in town to promote this autumn's Tri-Nations.

Widnes, at home to Bradford, have Stuart Spruce, previously the full-back for both clubs, as their assistant coach for the first time.

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