Saints ready to wait for Cunningham

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The Independent Online

St Helens are resisting the temptation to go into the transfer market to cover for the absence of their Great Britain hooker, Kieron Cunningham.

Cunningham damaged ankle ligaments at Castleford on Sunday and is estimated to be out for six to eight weeks. The Saints coach, Ian Millward, has had a meeting with one of Australia's leading agents, Wayne Beavis, but says that he has decided against signing a short-term replacement.

"There are hookers on his list, but I regard Kieron as the best hooker in the world and whoever came in would only be keeping a shirt warm," he said. "I wouldn't sign a player on that basis."

Millward has an overseas spot open since Saints released Darrell Trindall, but says he will only bring in a new man if he is confident that he will be able to hold down a place next season.

He is also holding back from any approach to his former club, Leigh, for Mick Higham, a young hooker he rates highly. Millward has a gentleman's agreement with Leigh that he will not raid their ranks until after their campaign in the Northern Ford Premiership is over.

"If they had finished playing, it would be a different matter, but what I'm looking at now is managing with what we've got until Kieron is fit again," Millward said.

That could mean using the versatile Paul Wellens at hooker, but he too is likely to miss Saints' next game, at the London Broncos on Friday.

Among the players Beavis represents and who come off contract at the end of this season are the Australian Test captain, Brad Fittler, the Parramatta and Australia loose forward, Jason Smith and the Northern Eagles's experienced scrum-half, Jason Taylor.

Fittler has been linked with Wigan, with whom Beavis has also had talks on this trip, while Smith could be a target for Leeds.

The Rugby League is investigating reports that the referee, Steve Ganson, was spat at and abused by spectators after Halifax's win at Salford on Sunday.

Halifax say that they are ahead of schedule with their ground refurbishments at The Shay. The playing surface should have been lengthened and moved several yards towards the West Stand in time for the game against London on 19 May.

Vinny Webb, the coach of the Great Britain Student side, has been appointed to coach the BARLA side of British amateurs in the Emerging Nations World Cup this autumn. The competition, which also features sides from Italy, Canada, the USA, Morocco and Japan, is to be launched officially today.

The Castleford prop Dean Sampson has been banned for two matches for kicking after an incident in which Halifax's Jamie Bloem claimed to be have been stamped in the groin.

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