Deacon to miss start of Bulls' title defence

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The Independent Online

Paul Deacon, the Great Britain scrum-half, will miss Bradford's World Club Challenge against Penrith after being ruled out for six weeks by an eye operation.

Deacon had a finger in the eye during the friendly against Castleford on Sunday and had a partially detached retina repaired yesterday. He is definitely out of the match against the Australian champions on 13 February and will also miss the start of the Bulls' bid to retain their Super League title.

The Bradford coach, Brian Noble, admitted that his absence will be a major blow.

"A lot of what we do revolves around his intelligence and his kicking game," he said. "I'm disappointed for Paul, but we've got to find someone else."

With Robbie Paul seeing a specialist today to find out whether he can resume full training after his problems with his broken arm, that could mean an opportunity for Karl Pratt, but he too is recovering from an operation, on his shoulder.

The loss of Deacon also means that Noble must find a goal-kicker to replace the most reliable marksman in the country.

"Michael Withers and Lee Radford can kick goals, but when you lose a bloke who kicks 90 per cent it's bound to be a serious blow," he said.

The Bradford coach has decided one thing, which is that Leon Pryce will get his first chance at the stand-off position.

"He's an outstanding talent and it's always been the position he's wanted to play," he said.

Noble poured cold water on suggestions that they could sign Iestyn Harris if and when the Welshman returns to rugby league this year.

"I'm an admirer of what he did before he left, but the reality is that he's been out of rugby league for three years," Noble said. "He's still playing rugby union as far as I'm concerned and I'm sure Leeds would have something to say about it."

Noble also said that no decision had been made on whether he will also be taking over as Great Britain's coach on a part-time basis. He discussed the post with David Waite, whose contract as the national coach has expired, before Christmas.

"I've a great ambition to coach Great Britain, but whether this is the time I don't know," he said.