St Helens win chase as Samoans switch codes

St Helens have signed two of the Samoans who proved a handful for England in the Rugby Union World Cup and will put them straight into action in their new code this weekend.

Maurie Fa'asavalu and Dominic Feaunati both played in all their country's matches in the tournament and have now committed themselves to Saints on two-year contracts.

"The World Cup gave us the ideal opportunity to assess the best talent that could be useful in league," the St Helens coach, Ian Millward, said. "We have been competing with so many rugby union clubs in other countries to get them on board."

Feaunati, a winger or centre who grew up playing league in New Zealand, said that he had always had the ambition to play the game professionally. For Fa'asavalu, a flanker who made a huge impact in the World Cup, it was the persistence of Saints that swung the balance. "They were ringing me every week and that is what the other clubs didn't do," he said. "This is a new family for me and that's what put them on top of the list."

Millward harked back to the success of Samoan players in Saints' Super League-winning team in 2000, one of whom, Apollo Perelini, was the catalyst in this deal. "Apollo helped to gel the process," Saints' chairman, Eamonn McManus, said. "It would have been much more difficult to acquire the services of these two players without him. He's a part-time conditioner and full-time father-figure."

Both Samoans will play in Saints' pre-season friendly at Barrow on Sunday. "I want to give them exposure to rugby league as soon as possible, in an environment that's not as intense as Super League," Millward said. "I'm really, really excited about it. They will give our squad a lot of zest."

Bradford's captain, Robbie Paul, looks certain to miss the World Club Challenge against Penrith at Huddersfield's McAlpine Stadium next month, following another setback with his arm injury.

Paul suffered a triple fracture last summer, returning just in time to play a part in the Grand Final. He has since had a bone graft but has been told by specialists that it has not worked and that he may be out for another two months. "I'm at my wits' end. It's incredibly frustrating," Paul said.

The Halifax hooker and captain, John Lawless, has retired at the age of 29 because of work commitments.

National League clubs have voted to retain the play-offs and Grand Final as a method of deciding promotion to Super League, whose clubs meet today to debate a proposed reduction to the maximum salary cap.

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