Wigan pitch Dobson into battle with deadly rivals

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The Independent Online

Michael Dobson is to be thrown in at the deep end of Wigan's relegation fight in the derby against table-topping St Helens today.

The fortunes of the game's greatest rivals have never diverged further, with 22 points and 11 Super League places separating Saints from last-placed Wigan. Into this fraught situation steps Dobson, not 20 until Monday and still without a first-team appearance in his native Australia.

He has been signed for the rest of the season on the strength of his form for the Catalans Dragons and is immediately entrusted with giving his new side the direction they have lacked this season.

"We are delighted he has signed, but it's important we don't put pressure on the kid. He has come to enjoy some football until the end of the year," said his new coach, Brian Noble. "He's well organised, he's exciting, he's quick, he has a good kicking game and for such a young bloke he has a good head to organise a team around the field."

Wigan are without Wayne Godwin, who has had stitches in head and leg wounds, but have Danny Hill and Nathan McAvoy available after being cup-tied last weekend. Saints' coach, Daniel Anderson, now says that Sean Long is likely to play after hinting earlier in the week that he would be rested.

The Dragons have released Dobson because they have their New Zealand Test scrum-half Stacey Jones fit to return against Wakefield today after a three-month absence with a broken arm. Jones was given final clearance to play yesterday morning, which means he will have a game under his belt before next weekend's Challenge Cup quarter-final at Saints. "I've just had a phone call to say he's OK to play, which is great news," said the Catalans' coach, Mick Potter.

Wakefield are without Jamie Rooney, serving the second of a two-match suspension, but the goal-kicking stand-off has signed a new contract to keep him at the club for another three years.

Newcastle Knights are refusing to release Brian Carney for Great Britain's Test against New Zealand next month. Carney joined the Australian club from Wigan this season and has been an immediate success.

"If the game was part of an official Tri-Nations we would certainly consider it, but for a one-off Test match we think it's unreasonable," said the Knights' chief executive, Ken Conway.

Carney's absence opens up the likelihood of a first cap for the St Helens winger Ade Gardner.