Hooker shortage forces Leeds to launch worldwide search

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The Independent Online

Leeds are "scouring the world" for a hooker to replace their injured Great Britain international, Matt Diskin. Diskin faces a knee reconstruction after tearing ligaments in his Test debut against New Zealand last month and will be out of action for six months.

That gives Leeds a major problem. "It's the only position throughout the club where we haven't got an array of talent," said the Rhinos' chief executive, Gary Hetherington. Leeds left the No 20 shirt vacant when they allocated squad numbers this week. "We have a place available in our wage structure and if a player of the right calibre becomes available we have given ourselves some flexibility," he said.

Hetherington says that the gap is likely to be filled by a hooker. "We are scouring the world," he said. "We have a few irons in the fire although we haven't spoken to anybody yet. We are monitoring the availability of a number of players."

Among the names being mentioned on the grapevine are Louis Anderson, a versatile forward who played hooker for New Zealand in the Tri-Nations, and, more fancifully, St Helens's Keiron Cunningham.

"That is a rumour I have heard as well, but he has a testimonial coming up and this would be an unusual time to change clubs," Hetherington said. "The other complication is that we don't want a specialist hooker in the long-term. We would need someone who could also play elsewhere."

If Leeds cannot find someone to fill the bill, they will be forced to switch one of their other players - like Rob Burrow, Andrew Dunemann or Willie Poching - to the role, but that would not be regarded as a good way to launch the defence of their Super League title.

Wigan have welcomed their four new overseas signings - Australians Dennis Moran and Luke Davico and New Zealanders David Vaealiki and Jerry Seu Seu - to the club, but there is still no word on whether Mike Gregory will be involved in their coaching next season.

Gregory has been on sick leave from his job as head coach since May and had a meeting with the club last week which was supposed to resolve his future. Despite that uncertainty, Davico, the former Canberra prop, has settled in so quickly that he has asked for the escape clause in his two-year contract to be removed.

St Helens have progressed to the semi-finals of the Dubai Sevens by beating the South African Buffaloes 38-5.

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