Lavea's refusal adds to half-back woe at Widnes

Widnes have failed in a bid for another international stand-off and have an extra problem at half-back for today's visit of St Helens with Ryan Sheridan struggling to recover from a bout of illness.

Having admitted defeat in their attempt to sign Henry Paul from rugby union's Gloucester, the Vikings lowered their sights to try to recruit Tasesa Lavea, who played alongside him for New Zealand in the 2000 World Cup, but has had his career blighted by injury since. Lavea had agreed terms, but has now decided to stay in Australia, where he has played for Melbourne and the Northern Eagles, leaving Widnes still lacking in a key position.

Dean Lawford has been filling in at stand-off, but he could be needed at scrum-half if Sheridan is still unwell after being unable to train this week, forcing the Widnes coach, Neil Kelly, to improvise at No 6.

Saints could be without Paul Sculthorpe, as well as Martin Gleeson, Keiron Cunningham, Paul Wellens and their first choice stand-off, Tommy Martyn, who has broken his arm.

The gate for the derby at the Halton Stadium could help Super League towards a record aggregate for a round of six matches. The best ever recorded is 55,374 in April 2000 and Hull's attendance boom, reflected again by the crowd for the visit of London last night, got this weekend off to a flying start.

It will get new impetus tomorrow, when Bradford return to Odsal after a two-year exile at Valley Parade. The significance of the homecoming should add several thousand to the numbers wanting to see what has been rather a routine task against Wakefield in recent years.

If the event has the emotional pull the Bulls hope it will have, even the record of 62,274, for a seven-game round in 1999, could be under threat – something Super League will be delighted to point to at the end of a season when it must renegotiate its television contract.

Robbie Paul could miss out for Bradford, while Jamie Field returns for Trinity in place of Clinton O'Brien.

Leeds's visit to Warrington should also play its part in bumping up the figures. Injuries to Chris McKenna and Danny Ward make the Rhinos look a little more vulnerable than they might normally have been to a Warrington side which has shown signs of improvement this season. Chev Walker and Chris Feather come in.

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