Saints hit by injuries to Long and Fa'asavalu on eve of crunch tie

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The Independent Online

St Helens have suffered a double blow on the eve of tonight's Grand Final qualifier against Leeds with the late withdrawal of two key players. Their scrum-half, Sean Long, has failed to recover from the hamstring injury that kept him out of Saints' last match of the league season, the defeat by Wigan two weeks ago.

On top of that, Maurie Fa'asavalu, the Samoan forward who wants to play for Great Britain, has been revealed as the player who broke down in midweek with a training injury.

Matty Smith and Bryn Hargreaves have been added to the squad for the match that will take either Saints or Leeds straight into the Grand Final at Old Trafford on 13 October.

Better news for the reigning champions is that Nick Fozzard is back after also missing the Wigan game. That is something that his team-mate, Paul Wellens, believes will give them a crucial lift. "He's been our stand-out forward all year, someone who never takes a backward step," he said. "When we have all our players available there's no better front row combination in Super League."

Saints received another boost yesterday with the re-signing of the former Great Britain captain, Paul Sculthorpe, on a one-year deal despite his recent battles with injury. Sculthorpe's successor as Great Britain captain, Jamie Peacock, will lead the counter attack for Leeds tonight.

Salford, who will today announce the signing of the Huddersfield and former Bradford half-back, Robbie Paul, on a two-year contract, are also retaining Karl Fitzpatrick, Jon Wilshere and Malcolm Alker despite their relegation.

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