Lowes surgery leaves Ireland in the lurch

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The Independent Online

Ireland have suffered a blow to their World Cup hopes with the withdrawal of the Bradford hooker, James Lowes, from their squad for the tournament, writes Dave Hadfield. Lowes would have been a strong candidate for the captaincy, but he has told the Irish coach, Steve O'Neill, that he needs a knee operation at the end of the domestic season.

Ireland have suffered a blow to their World Cup hopes with the withdrawal of the Bradford hooker, James Lowes, from their squad for the tournament, writes Dave Hadfield. Lowes would have been a strong candidate for the captaincy, but he has told the Irish coach, Steve O'Neill, that he needs a knee operation at the end of the domestic season.

"It was a hard decision to make, but I've been in agony after the last four games," Lowes said. "There's no way I could carry on without the operation."

Despite the controversy over his approach to the role of captain with Bradford, Lowes will leave a sizable gap in the Irish squad when it named in Belfast today. St Helens' Chris Joynt would be an obvious replacement as leader of the team, while John Lawless would be a suitable stand-in as hooker.

One rather less well-kept secret involving a member of the Irish squad was finally revealed yesterday when Wigan unveiled the signing of the Hull winger, Brian Carney, on a three-year deal. Going in the opposite direction is Wigan's former Great Britain half-back, Tony Smith. Also joining Hull as they rebuild for next season are the two Leeds reserves, Gareth Carvell and Gareth Raynor.

Karle Hammond is dropping down a division to return to his original club Widnes, for next season. Hammond, who has spent the past two years with London Broncos, has signed a one-year contract. Hammond is in line to play for Wales in the World Cup and will be arguably the highest profile player in next year's Northern Ford Premiership.

Harvey Howard, the only Briton playing top level in Australia with Brisbane last month, has declared his availability for the World Cup and will be in England's squad when it is named next week.

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