Jones injury dampens Dragons' fire for Super League start

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The Independent Online

The Catalans Dragons will be without the scrum-half Stacey Jones for the first month of the Super League season. The New Zealand international has had knee surgery and will be out for six weeks.

The French club's first game is at Hull on 11 February and a new Australian signing, Casey McGuire, will probably stand in for Jones, who missed 12 weeks of last season with a broken arm. "Unlike last year, with a little more depth in our pivotal areas, we will be able to alleviate the loss of Stacey for the first weeks," said the club's chief executive, Nicolas Rayer.

The Leeds coach, Tony Smith, has complained that his club will be disadvantaged by the new fixture format for Super League, which pits each club against one other four times. Leeds are paired with Bradford, but Hull have four games against the promoted Hull KR, who will be without Stanley Gene and Jon Steel for the start of the season.

"There's an advantage to some teams," Smith said. "I'm not moaning, but the ideal competition would be two full rounds." Smith said that a reduction in the number of games would also help Great Britain's prospects. "Do they want a Tri-Nations or a World Cup-winning team or a terrific domestic competition?" he asked.

The New Zealand full-back Brent Webb makes his Leeds debut in Friday's friendly against Huddersfield, a joint testimonial for Leeds' Keith Senior and the Giants full-back Paul Reilly.

* The Warrington half-back Lee Briers was last night made the first Parliamentarians Player of the Year. The award was given at a House of Lords dinner by the All-Party Parliamentary Rugby League Group.

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