Deacon fear but Vainikolo fit to face Wests Tigers

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The Independent Online

Bradford's potential match-winner, Lesley Vainikolo, has declared himself fit for Friday night's World Club Challenge, despite an injury scare at his club's warm- weather training camp in Lanzarote.

The giant Kiwi, Super League's leading try-scorer last season, damaged his left knee - not the one that has required surgery in the past - raising fears that he could miss the game against Wests Tigers at the Galpharm Stadium.

"I'll be all right," he insisted yesterday. "I thought it was serious at the time, but I went to the specialist and he has set my mind at rest."

That is good news for Brian Noble, who has other players rated only 50-50 to be fit for the big occasion.

The biggest doubt is his scrum-half, Paul Deacon, although his problem is unconnected with the horrific facial injuries he suffered playing for Great Britain against New Zealand at the same venue in November.

He has damaged a hamstring in training, as has the new signing from Leeds, Chris McKenna. Another newcomer, Stanley Gene, has a slight knee problem.

If Deacon is ruled out, Noble could move Iestyn Harris to scrum-half for his first match as Bradford captain, with the possibility of playing Karl Pryce at stand-off, where he has been used in pre-season friendlies.

"I won't know until Thursday, but I'm pretty confident Stanley will be fit," said Noble, who added that he expected to complete the remaining two years of his contract despite reports linking him with the coaching position at Newcastle Knights in place of the departing Michael Hagan.

The Wests Tigers coach, Tim Sheens, also has a selection decision to make in the absence of his brilliant first-choice stand-off, Benji Marshall, with Daniel Fitzhenry and Ben Galea the candidates to replace him.

The New Zealand Test prop, Paul Rauhihi, will make his debut for Warrington tonight in Michael Wainwright's testimonial match against Salford.

The match was postponed on Sunday because of a frozen pitch, as was Paul Rowley's testimonial between Leigh and Halifax, which has also been rearranged for tonight.

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