Hull and Cooke reach agreement on new contract

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The Independent Online

With perfect timing, Hull have resolved the long, drawn-out saga of Paul Cooke's new contract on the eve of their Challenge Cup quarter-final against Leigh.

Cooke's failure to come to terms after the end of this season had alerted other clubs, but now he has agreed a new, three-year deal.

"He's been in terrific form throughout this season and everyone at the club hopes he gains the international recognition he deserves," said the Hull chief executive, David Plummer.

"I didn't want to leave Hull," said Cooke. "They're my home-town club and my family and friends are all here."

Hull are overwhelming favourites to progress to the semis after beating Leigh 30-16 in Super League last week. They are now without the suspended Chris Chester, but Motu Tony is available again.

Leigh might regard this as welcome relief from their relegation struggles, but they could be without John Wilshere, Paul Rowley, Jason Kent and Phil Jones.

The obvious tie of the round is tomorrow, when Ian Millward goes back to St Helens with his Wigan team for the first time.

Millward calls Saints "the most skilful and fastest team in Super League" and has been busily playing down the prospects of his badly depleted new team beating his old.

Apart from a long injury list of players, he is without the Cup-tied Liam Botham, with Bryn Hargreaves coming in as his replacement.

Saints have Darren Albert available again and apart Maurie Fa'asavalu, who has shingles, will be at full strength.

Tomorrow's other tie is being played in France, where the hosts, Toulouse, are at full strength. Widnes, who have signed the Cronulla full-back, David Peachey for two years, subject to retaining their Super League status, have Jules O'Neill and Gray Viane Cup-tied.

The Toulouse coach, Justin Morgan, played under Millward's replacement at St Helens, Daniel Anderson, at both Parramatta and New Zealand Warriors, as well as with the London prop Mark Tookey at the same two clubs. "I'm trying to use as many sources as possible to get the background on Widnes," he said.