Leeds lend coach Fletcher to struggling Gateshead

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The Independent Online

Leeds have stepped in to help the struggling outpost club, Gateshead Thunder, by lending them a coach. Paul Fletcher, the former Bramley coach who now works with the Rhinos' junior players, will be seconded to the North east until Easter.

Fletcher takes over from Ray Unsworth, the Rugby League's coaching co-ordinator, who has guided a team of raw local youngsters to two creditable performances since the Thunder ended the contracts of their coach, Andy Kelly, and his Yorkshire-based players as a cost-cutting measure. Leeds will also lend some of their up-and-coming young players to the club, now owned by Kicks Leisure.

Huddersfield, who have already lent two players to Gateshead, will today re-sign the former Leigh and St Helens forward, Heath Cruckshank. The Australian second-rower had been refused a work permit, but has now married his English partner.

Leeds' Challenge Cup quarter-final against Wakefield is to be televised on Saturday 16 March, with Halifax's tie against St Helens to be screened the next day.

The Saints coach, Ian Millward, has tipped Bradford to beat his side by finishing top of the Super League at the end of the regular season.

"They have a huge squad, a powerful squad and no Challenge Cup games to worry about," said Millward, who is counting on Saints' ability in sudden death rugby to catch out the Bulls in the play-off series. "If they don't finish top, they will be the under-achievers of Super League."

Millward will have his new Australian forward, Barry Ward, available for the first time after suspension for Saints' opening match at Widnes.

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