Raper rejects claim of Australian job offer

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The Independent Online

The Wigan coach, Stuart Raper, has emphatically denied that he has a job offer from his native Australia that could see him leave the club before the end of his contract.

The Wigan owner, Dave Whelan, claimed this week that Raper is weighing an opportunity to return home.

"But there is no truth in that at all," Raper insisted. "I can categorically say that I have no offer from Australia and that I hope to be at Wigan next season."

Wigan won the Cup under Raper last season and have performed better than could be reasonably expected with a young, injury-hit squad this season, but speculation about his future has mounted with the return of the former Wigan captain, Ellery Hanley, to the area.

Last weekend Whelan took the bizarre step of coming on to the field at the JJB Stadium to deliver a public pep-talk to the Wigan players before their match against Wakefield. Raper has not commented on that incident, presumably triggered by the previous week's defeat by Huddersfield, but is thought to be quietly furious.

For tonight's match at London, he moves David Hodgson to the wing for Brett Dallas, who is in Australia because of his mother's illness, with Sean O'Loughlin in the centres, Danny Tickle in the back row and Craig Smith returning from suspension at prop.

London, thrashed last week at Warrington, bring back Tony Martin for the injured Steve Hall. In the pack, Damien Kennedy replaces Jason Netherton, who has returned to Leeds.

Tommy Martyn, the hero of so many of St Helens' successes, will say his farewells to Knowsley Road before tonight's game against Huddersfield. Martyn has signed for his home-town club, Leigh, but a broken arm has delayed his debut.

Saints have every reason to be wary of the Giants. Not only were they beaten at Huddersfield earlier this season, but Wigan and Leeds have gone the same way in recent weeks.

The League leaders, Leeds, are at home to the bottom club, Halifax, who will set a new Super League record of 18 consecutive defeats if they lose. John Hill and Chris Maye, on loan from Saints, are added to their squad.

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