St Helens may defy League over ban on Long

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The Independent Online

St Helens are planning to play Sean Long against Bradford on 17 September, despite the Rugby League's ruling that his suspension does not run out until midnight after the game.

St Helens are planning to play Sean Long against Bradford on 17 September, despite the Rugby League's ruling that his suspension does not run out until midnight after the game.

Long is serving a three-month ban for his part in Saints' betting scandal, but his club want him to play in the last match of the regular season, in order to go into the play-offs with some match practice.

"In the judgement, it says the suspension ends on 17 September. We have initial legal opinion that that means it finishes at one minute past midnight on the 17th," the Saints' chief executive, Sean McGuire, said. "This is one for the lawyers, but I think most people would see it as a small-minded interpretation if he was prevented from playing that night."

A League spokesman said representations had been received from St Helens, but that their interpretation remained that Long cannot play.

The Castleford winger, Paul Mellor, will be able to play at Widnes on Saturday in the game that could send his side down. Mellor was found guilty last night of attempted striking in the match against Salford, but avoided suspension. Widnes expect to be without injured scrum-half Willie Peters.

"It made all the difference to us at Wakefield on Sunday, because we lost all our direction when he went off," the club's coaching advisor, Frank Endacott, said. "It's not the time of season when you want to lose your half-back, but I've every confidence in Stephen Myler, who will come in."

Widnes have protested at being told to play their last Super League game, away at Hull, a week on Saturday. If relegation is still an issue, they will press for Castleford to play their match against Wakefield at the same time.

Hull fear that their play-maker, Jason Smith, could have played their last game for them. Smith has gone for a second scan on the shoulder he injured in the defeat at Huddersfield on Saturday - the same shoulder that kept him out for three months at the start of the season. Smith has already announced that he is leaving at the end of the season to join Canberra Raiders.

Hull have agreed new contracts with forwards Danny Hill and Liam Higgins.

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