Saints test Leeds' title aspirations

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The Independent Online

The extent of Leeds' resurgence gets another test this evening when their main rivals of recent years come to Headingley.

St Helens have consistently pushed the Rhinos and there is a five-point gap between them this time following Leeds' slow start to the season. The reigning champions were impressive, however, in coming from behind to win at Warrington last weekend.

One of the key men in that win was 20-year-old hooker Paul McShane who supplied the match-winning pass to Danny McGuire for his try. He could be excused for feeling disappointed this week when the club announced the re-signing of both their senior hookers, Danny Buderus and Matt Diskin, suggesting that his first-team opportunities could remain limited for some time. He gets another run today because Diskin is one of half a dozen first-teamers out injured.

Saints welcome back Kyle Eastmond after a four-match absence with an ankle injury, but that good news is balanced by the loss of Keiron Cunninghan and Tony Puletua from the pack.

Fourth-placed Hull begin their adjustment to life without Sean Long at Bradford. Long will miss all or most of the regular season after dislocating his elbow. The scrum-half remains confident that Hull can carry on without him, especially with the impending return of Richard Horne. "The lads will be fine and will continue to pick up the wins," he predicted.

Leaders Wigan are at Catalan Dragons, who now know that Trent Robinson will be their coach next season. Wigan will offer a one-year contract extension to prop Stuart Fielden and have Harrison Hansen back after a biceps operation.

Warrington are at Crusaders, who have Jarrod Sammut and Gareth Thomas returning and will be looking to bounce back from last week's 41-0 thrashing by Wakefield, who have Tevita Leo-Latu returning for tomorrow's visit of Hull KR.

Castleford, at home to Huddersfield, have confirmed they will appeal against their £40,000 fine for homophobic chanting.

The Rugby League and Barla, which runs the amateur game, have agreed in principle to plan towards a switch to a summer season, in line with professional rugby league. Individual leagues will remain free to choose when they want to play.

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