St Helens in clear over weak line-up

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St Helens will not be punished for fielding a team of reserves in their Super League match at Odsal on Monday.

St Helens will not be punished for fielding a team of reserves in their Super League match at Odsal on Monday.

Bradford officials and supporters of both teams were angered when Saints' coach, Ian Millward, named a line-up lacking 13 regulars with five teenagers making their debuts. The Bradford chairman, Chris Caisley, said that the fans had been "cheated".

Two years ago, Millward did something similar for a match at Valley Parade shortly before the Challenge Cup final. The club were initially fined £25,000, but that was quashed on appeal.

This time Millward has got away scot-free, although everybody in the game knows he was adopting an old ploy, for reasons linked to his dislike of playing two games in quick succession.

The Rugby League no longer has the old by-law obliging clubs to field full-strength teams. All they need to do now is to ensure that all the players they use are registered to play Super League, as all Saints' players were, despite not being regular members of their first-team squad.

The League's spokesman said the official team sheets have been scrutinised. "All the players who took part in the game were approved to play at Super League level," he said.

The change in the game's by-laws, which gives coaches a free hand to play whatever team they please, regardless of the harm that might do the game's credibility, was unanimously approved by the Rugby League Council since the issue last arose two seasons ago.

Saints could still face problems over other aspects of their turbulent Easter weekend. Their back-row forward John Wilkin faces a disciplinary hearing tonight after being sent off for a late, high tackle on Paul Deacon at Bradford on Monday.

A suspension of more than one match will rule Wilkin, an increasingly valuable member of Saints' squad, out of their Challenge Cup semi-final against Huddersfield on 25 April.

Also tonight, Saints' captain, Paul Sculthorpe, and their Samoan winger, Dom Feaunati, face charges of alleged striking during the Good Friday derby against Wigan. The Wigan captain, Andy Farrell, will face a similar charge, related to his angry confrontation with Sculthorpe.

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