Saints fear Wolves raid for rising star Eastmond

Versatile 20-year-old's fine display for England attracts increased interest
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The Independent Online

St Helens are concerned that they might lose their latest international, Kyle Eastmond, to their neighbours, Warrington. Eastmond, who was outstanding coming off the bench to play at centre against Australia on Saturday, is looking for a big improvement on the terms of his current contract.

His agent, Martin Offiah, has hinted that he is a target for rugby union clubs, but Saints are more worried about the interest from the Wolves, where Eastmond's England coach, Tony Smith, is in charge.

Smith was giving nothing away at training yesterday about where the versatile 20-year-old is likely to play against New Zealand on Saturday. The Leeds winger Ryan Hall says that he will be fit to face the Kiwis, despite a shoulder injury picked up against Australia. Smith said England would seek to make a quicker start against the Kiwis than they did against Australia, who led 26-0 at half-time on Saturday. "The players are really conscious of it," he said. "They're really keen to get out there and start better this week.

"We'd love to have a better start, that's pretty obvious. We don't want to be chasing like we did last week. There is no magic formula for that but we'll try some little things that may be a little different in our prep."

Leigh hope to know by the end of this week whether they have been reprieved from relegation to the third tier of the game, Championship One. The club, who yesterday welcomed back Ian Millward as coach, finished last season in one of the relegation places in the Championship, but since then Gateshead, who survived, have said that they would rather drop down to regroup after their financial implosion. A meeting of the League's board of directors will discuss the situation on Friday.

"Hopefully with the Gateshead factor the club will get a second chance," said Millward, who coached St Helens with great success after his first stint at Leigh. "It would be good practice for the League to help clubs showing enterprise like this one." The future of another Championship One club, Oldham, appears secure after the withdrawal of a winding-up order.