Saint Eastmond must fill Long's boots

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The Independent Online

Kyle Eastmond is not the only St Helens player with a big pair of boots to fill in their opening Super League fixture this evening.

Eastmond replaces Sean Long, who will line up for opponents Hull in the most keenly awaited confrontation of the weekend, but Saints will also be without Francis Meli, still on compassionate leave for a family illness.

His likely stand-in is 20-year-old Gary Wheeler, normally a centre or stand-off, who started six Super League games last season.

After an injury-ravaged 2009, the Hull coach, Richard Agar, has the unusual luxury of almost a fully fit squad from which to select. Only Mark Calderwood is missing, whilst Shane Berrigan returns from a long-standing shoulder injury.

Agar has an embarrassment of choice in some positions, although, apart from Long, it looks certain that the Australian Test forwards, Mark O'Meley and Craig Fitzgibbon, will make their competitive debuts. One club with a Super League victory already are Wakefield, thanks to last weekend's early start at Harlequins.

Terry Newton has recovered sufficiently from a biceps injury to be included in tomorrow's squad to face the Catalan Dragons, along with two other winter signings, Paul Johnson and Paul King. The suspended Richard Moore is replaced by Kyle Bibb.

Quins are also without Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook as a result of that same altercation with Moore for their trip to Warrington, who are so strongly fancied to achieve something in the competition this season. Hull KR, at home to Salford, are without the injured Ben Galea and Joel Clinton, who still has no visa.

Three Wigan players, Shaun Ainscough, Liam Farrell and Ben Davies, have joined Widnes on loan.

Oldham have been given permission to play their Northern Rail Cup-tie against Rochdale at Sedgeley Park on Monday, but are still looking for a home ground.

Sam Burgess, South Sydney's English signing, has been picked for the NRL All-Star team before even playing a game in the NRL. Willie Mason, who was linked with a possible move to Super League, has signed for North Queensland Cowboys.