Pryce plays on for Saints despite facing jail sentence

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The Independent Online

The St Helens and England stand-off Leon Pryce and his former team-mate Stuart Reardon face jail sentences after admitting assault charges in court in Bradford yesterday. The two were released on conditional bail and will be sentenced at the city's Domestic Violence Court on 23 April, but Saints say they regard it as an off-field matter and will continue to select Pryce, starting with tonight's match at Wakefield.

Reardon, now with Warrington and out of action with a long-term injury, pleaded guilty to assaulting his estranged wife. Pryce, who went with him to her house, admitted assaulting the woman's new partner. Deputy District Judge Nick Watson warned the two men: "You need to understand that a prison sentence is what I have in mind for this offence."

Pryce, like Reardon, aged 27, was England's first-choice No 6 in last autumn's World Cup and has been one of the game's leading players, first with his hometown club, Bradford, and since 2006 with Saints, for the last decade. He avoided jail in 2003 when he pleaded guilty to unlawful wounding after a "glassing" incident and was sentenced to 120 hours' community service.

The Wakefield coach, John Kear, says he does not care about winning tonight's game with Saints, provided it is a fitting tribute to Leon Walker, the 20-year-old reserve forward who died during a game in Maesteg on Sunday. "The result is completely secondary to me," an emotional Kear said yesterday. "I just want to see both teams turn in a sensational game of rugby league, with all the skill, all the passion, all the commitment and all the character that made Leon fall in love with the game.

"Rather than an ugly 2-0 win, I'd settle for losing 32-30, in a celebration of the lad's love of rugby league. That would be the most fitting tribute to him."

Kear has recalled Sam Obst, who was not only on the field making his comeback from injury in the reserves when Walker died, but was also in the gym with Adam Watene for the weights session after which the first-team prop collapsed and died six months ago. "I don't know how he's going to react," Kear admitted. "He is just starting to come to terms with it. The players as a whole have been very mature, responsible and selfless. As a club, we are amazed by the support, sympathy and the offers of help we have had."

There will be a minute's silence at Belle Vue tonight – as there will at all other games – which Kear predicted would be "immaculately observed".

Lee Smith, Leeds' international back, will be out of action for three to four weeks after an insect bite on his knee became infected. Among the matches he will miss is the Challenge Cup tie against St Helens on 5 April.

The Widnes chairman, Steve O'Connor, and his family are recovering from being held hostage by burglars at their Cheshire home. O'Connor and his wife and son were tied up by intruders who escaped with £500 and jewellery.

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