Widnes to back O'Neill

Widnes are standing by Julian O'Neill as their captain despite allegations that he tried to set fire to a boy in a dolphin suit while drunk on a boat trip.

The organisers of the trip in Port Macquarie in Australia have written to the club complaining about O'Neill's behaviour, which they claim included holding a cigarette lighter to the costume.

"A stupid act like that could have been fatal because that suit is highly flammable," said the boy's father, the tour operator Dave Lazarus.

Widnes believe the claims are exaggerated, but O'Neill's performance is bound to cause them concern so soon after his appointment to the captaincy.

"We are aware of an allegation and we have taken action," the Widnes spokesman, Andrew Kirchin, said.

The incident took place before Widnes played in the World Sevens in Sydney at the weekend, when they lost all three of their group matches.

Defeats by New South Wales Country and Cronulla were followed yesterday by a 35-11 loss to Parramatta, who went on to lose 18-7 to Wests Tigers in the final.

The London Broncos have signed the South Sydney forward Andrew Hart for the coming season. He had been close to joining St Helens.

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