Wellens and Meli return for Saints' Grand Final revenge mission

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The Independent Online

St Helens and Leeds meet this evening for the first time since last season's Grand Final, with both sides starting to show signs of the form that got them there. Saints will go second if they win and they have a more familiar look to their backline with the return from injury of Paul Wellens and Francis Meli.

The versatile and influential Jon Wilkin, however, is starting his recuperation from shoulder surgery, a process which is expected to take 12 weeks. "His shoulder has been giving him problems for a while now, but he's been playing on," said Saints' coach, Mick Potter. "It's better that he has the op now, rather than not being able to get through the season. We've got Andrew Dixon and Matty Ashurst who can step in."

Champions Leeds are still lurking just outside the top eight play-off places, but they were more convincing in their Challenge Cup victory over Hull last weekend than they have been all season. Jamie Peacock, a significant late inclusion as a substitute in that game, could start for the first time since his injury lay-off.

In the Co-operative Championship, Barrow, fresh from their heroics in knocking Super League Castleford out of the Challenge Cup, resume their usual business at home to Dewsbury.

Cas have their first chance to begin redeeming themselves at home to Salford tomorrow. Victory will see Salford leapfrog the Tigers in the lower reaches of the league table; Cas will have Brent Sherwin back at scrum-half after a shoulder injury.

Bradford play for the first time since it was confirmed that Steve McNamara would beleaving them at the end of the season to become full-time England coach. He names centre Joe Wardle for a possible debut against Hull KR, who have something to prove after their poor performance in the Cup at Huddersfield last weekend.

The Giants are at Crusaders, who recall Weller Hauraki and Vince Mellars, while Warrington, with Lee Briers and Michael Monaghan back and the young Welsh wingman Rhys Williams hoping to retain his place, host the Catalan Dragons.

Malcolm Waldron, the former chief executive blamed for setting up the Melbourne Storm salary-cap scam, which was exposed this week, has resigned from his current job as CEO of the Melbourne Rebels rugby union franchise, and gone into hiding. The Storm's chairman, Dr Rob Moodie, has offered his resignation to the owners, News Ltd. He said yesterday that Waldron had told him he had organised the fraud "because everybody was doing it".

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