Prop shortage frustrates Hull

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Injury ravaged Hull are being frustrated in their attempts to bring in a reinforcement on loan by a national prop shortage.

With Ewan Dowes and Gareth Carvell both ruled out, the Hull coach, Peter Sharp, had hoped to bring in a temporary signing in time for tomorrow’s game at St Helens. Both those players originally arrived at the club on loan.

He has found, however, that there is a dearth of fit, available front-rowers. One player in whom Hull were interested was Warrington’s Steve Pickersgill, but with Paul Wood injured and facing another shoulder reconstruction, any possibility of the Wolves loaning him out for first-team experience has disappeared.

Several other clubs who traditionally lend out players are similarly affected. St Helens have three front-line props missing, whilst Wigan and Bradford both lost front-rowers last weekend through injuries to Paul Prescott and Joe Vagana.

Everything points to Hull having to manage with what they have left, but at least they have some good, long-term news about Dowes. His knee injury is not as bad as first feared and he could re-appear by the end of the month.

One further improvement is that their Great Britain centre, Kirk Yeaman, will play his first game of the season at Saints tomorrow, after damaging his elbow in a pre-season friendly.

The first Hull derby of the season, at Hull KR’s Craven Park on Good Friday, has completely sold out more than two weeks in advance.

Leeds have had it confirmed that their Kiwi Test centre, Clinton Toopi, will be out for up to four months after dislocating his shoulder in the World Club Challenge victory over Melbourne.

Oxford will try to narrow the gap between them and Cambridge in the 28th Rugby League Varsity Match at The Stoop tonight.

Cambridge lead by 15 victories to 11, with one draw, although Oxford won 20-14 last year. The Dark Blues’ preparation for this year has included a tour to Perpignan and training sessions with the Catalan Dragons.

The match could well be played in front of it's biggest-ever crowd, with Harlequins’ season ticket holders allowed in free.