Millward stokes derby tension by criticising tackling

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The Independent Online

Derby matches between St Helens and Wigan rarely need hyping but their first meeting of the season at Knowsley Road today has had some anyway.

To thicken further a mix made tastier than usual by the Saints' flying start to the season and Wigan's stumbling form, a row has erupted over Wigan's tackling technique.

The St Helens coach, Ian Millward, was outspoken in his criticism of the high tackles perpetrated by Wigan in last Sunday's defeat at Huddersfield, predicting that he would be sending his team out in protective headgear today.

It appears to be rather a one-sided row, though, with the Wigan coach, Mike Gregory, refusing to reply in kind. "I think Ian is getting the media more concerned about it than me,'' Gregory said. "What Ian is doing is trying to influence the officials, but they are strong enough now to deal with it.''

Wigan have Mick Cassidy and Danny Sculthorpe back after suspension and have included the London-born winger, Desi Williams, in their squad for what would be his debut.

Gregory may also move Andy Farrell closer to the centre of the action after a lack of midfield direction at Huddersfield.

In today's other games, Warrington recall Lee Briers - after resting him against London - for the visit of Widnes, who have yet to score a point, while the surprise success story of the season so far, Huddersfield, should continue their good form at home to Salford.

The executive chairman of the Rugby League, Richard Lewis, has revealed that he will be recommending a meeting of Super League clubs later this month to decide whether or not to accept the French club, Union Treiziste Catalane, into the competition from 2006.

The club would be renamed Perpignan after its home city, and Lewis said: "It will be a difficult decision, but I believe they should be in.'' The clubs will vote on their inclusion at a meeting on 20 April.

Lewis also indicated that the opening match of this autumn's Tri-Nations tournament between Australia and New Zealand is unlikely to be played in London as originally envisaged. "London carries an element of unnecessary risk,'' Lewis said.

He also defended the choice of two venues, Widnes' Halton Stadium and Warrington's Halliwell Jones Stadium, with a combined capacity of 26,000 for the Challenge Cup semi-finals later this month.

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