Hammond ruled out of Wales' cup plans

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The Independent Online

Karle Hammond has joined the list of players who have withdrawn from Wales' squad for the Lincoln World Cup. The creative stand-off or loose forward, who has moved back from the London Broncos to Widnes for next season, was due to fly with Wales to South Africa on Sunday for pre-tournament training and a warm-up international.

Karle Hammond has joined the list of players who have withdrawn from Wales' squad for the Lincoln World Cup. The creative stand-off or loose forward, who has moved back from the London Broncos to Widnes for next season, was due to fly with Wales to South Africa on Sunday for pre-tournament training and a warm-up international.

But Hammond told the Welsh management only hours before departure that he would not be making the trip. "I suffered a double fracture of the thumb at the end of last season and I have had some problems with the injury," he said. "In fact, the injury has just started to heal and I don't want to risk it by playing in the World Cup. It has been a major disappointment to me, but I was forced to make a decision."

Hammond joins Halifax's Damien Gibson and the Wigan prop Neil Cowie in pulling out because of injury. There was better news for Wales yesterday, however, with the St Helens hooker, Keiron Cunningham, travelling with Anthony Sullivan to meet the squad in Pretoria, despite his club's doubts about him making the trip.

Cunningham defied back and hamstring injuries to play in Saints' victorious Grand Final side and his coach, Ian Millward, felt that he would not be fit to travel.

New Zealand, who play Wales in the group stage, will field all their stars, despite rumblings of a strike by players owed money by the Auckland Warriors, according to their coach, Frank Endacott.

"I'm confident all the players will be here," he said. "All I want is for them to get here with their heads clear."

Martin Masella, the former Leeds and Wakefield prop who has joined Warrington for next season, has been appointed captain of Tonga for the World Cup.

One of the key Auckland and New Zealand players, Stacey Jones, is a target for a British club, thought to be the London Broncos. The Broncos have completed a long-rumoured transfer by re-signing Tony Mestrov, the prop who has spent the last three seasons at Wigan.

"I've enjoyed my time at Wigan, but I want to play more than 20 minutes," said Mestrov, who has been used almost exclusively as a substitute at the JJB Stadium.

"Tony Mestrov has the Broncos in his blood," said Tony Rea, who has recently taken over as the club's coach. "He was very popular with fans and team-mates here in London and I'm particularly excited about seeing him link up with Justin Dooley and Jason Hetherington in the front row. Together they will make a very physical trio."

Rochdale Hornets are looking for a new coach - less than seven weeks before the start of the new Northern Ford Premiership season - following the resignation of Steve Deakin. Deakin quit as assistant coach at Keighley in August to succeed Steve Linnane, but has now left the club without being in charge of a match.

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