Leeds seek win to finish strange week for Powell

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The Independent Online

After the most tumultuous of weeks at Headingley, Leeds can go back to the top of Super League, at least for one night, when they go to Hull this evening.

The club has made it clear that it intends to stand by its two players, Chev Walker and Ryan Bailey, who were sent to a young offenders institution for violent disorder. The more immediate question is how they will be replaced today, and Daryl Powell is fortunate in having two players as seasoned as Chris McKenna and Barrie McDermott to come back into his starting line-up.

It has been a strange week for Powell as well, with the news that he is being moved upstairs for two years into the role of director of rugby, while Tony Smith comes in next season from Huddersfield to coach the first team.

Powell claims to be happy about the switch, but it still seems to run the risk of disrupting what has been a successful season for the Rhinos. Hull will certainly be swift to pounce on any hints of confusion, although they have problems of their own with an injury toll that prevented any serious training as a group until yesterday.

It has been an interesting week at Wigan as well, with Stuart Raper sacked, reinstated and sacked again all in the one day. Mike Gregory's first chance to show what he can do in the caretaker's role is at Warrington, a club where he spent almost all of his playing career, and he has Paul Johnson back from injury and Brett Dallas back from visiting his sick mother in Australia.

The Warrington coach, Paul Cullen, is an old team-mate and friend of Gregory, but that will not stop him trying to capitalise on any disarray. "Any time is a good time for us to play Wigan,'' he said. "It's the biggest game on our calendar by far, and they're going to be fortified by what's happened this week.

"Mike and I played 10 years here together, and we've kept in touch. I spoke to him earlier this week and I'm delighted that he's been given a chance.''

Cullen expects to be without Nick Fozzard, with an eye-socket injury, and Rob Smyth, who is the worst affected by a stomach bug in the camp.

Bradford have Daniel Gartner back for tomorrow's game against Huddersfield, while prop Darren Britt returns for St Helens at struggling London.

The former Warrington player, Tawera Nikau, has had his leg amputated after complications set in following a motorbike accident in his native New Zealand. The New Zealand Rugby League said it will do its best to support Nikau, who also played for York, Sheffield and Castleford.

The former New Zealand international and Maori captain, who had a spell with the Wolves following National Rugby League Premiership success at Melbourne Storm in 1999, broke his leg on 1 July when he crashed into an oncoming car at Ohinewai in central north island.

Nikau won 19 caps for New Zealand before deciding to represent his native people at the 2000 World Cup.

"We will be there to support him in any way we can," said NZRL's executive director, Selwyn Pearson. "It is fair to say he is one of rugby league's favourite sons and we will be there for him and his family."

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