St Helens insist Sculthorpe will stay at club

St Helens have dismissed reports that they could lose their captain, Paul Sculthorpe, to Australia.

St Helens have dismissed reports that they could lose their captain, Paul Sculthorpe, to Australia.

Sculthorpe, who misses today's derby at Wigan with a hamstring strain, has been described as the prime target for ambitious South Sydney, coached by the former Saints' coach Shaun McRae.

Sculthorpe would also be the only British player capable of filling the boots of Andy Farrell at Wigan, now that the Great Britain captain has finally switched codes to join Saracens.

"No one is having him," insisted the Saints chairman, Eamonn McManus. "His contract has almost three years to run and he is hoping to extend it. He will be a St Helens player for the rest of his career."

Even without Sculthorpe, Saints start as obvious favourites for this traditional bank holiday contest. Their recent form has been compelling, while Wigan, badly affected by injuries, have limped from match to match.

Today they will be without Brian Carney and Dennis Moran, though Danny Orr is fit to return. On paper, they have little chance, but this is a fixture that throws up illogical results almost as a matter of course.

There is a hugely attractive match at Griffin Park, where third-placed London Broncos face Hull, who are fifth and have Richard Whiting available for the first time this season.

The Broncos were boosted this week by the decision of Lee Hopkins to sign a two-year extension to his contract. "There's something absolutely phenomenal going on at London and I'm over the moon about signing a new deal," said the second-rower. "I had a tough time a couple of weeks ago deciding what was best for me, but now I know that this is the place for me."

Another player to have decided his future is Warrington's captain, Lee Briers, who has agreed a new contract that will keep him there until 2007. The Wolves go today to Salford, the team bracketed with them just above the relegation places, currently occupied by Widnes and Leigh, who meet at the Halton Stadium. Leigh have lost their playmaker and two directors this week, but deny that they are in crisis. Huddersfield go to Wakefield, still without Michael De Vere, who is due to make his long-awaited debut at home to Salford on Easter Monday.

In the last round of Northern Rail Cup matches, Oldham have appealed to fans to help them in their current financial plight by turning out for their game against Rochdale.

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