Wigan poised to pounce as Wildcats dump prop

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The Independent Online

Wigan are leading the race to sign Francis Stephenson, the Wakefield Trinity prop who is one of the victims of the Wildcats' financial crash. Stephenson, expected to be named next week in John Kear's England World Cup squad, had his contract terminated last week and has also attracted interest from Bradford, Leeds and Castleford.

Wigan are leading the race to sign Francis Stephenson, the Wakefield Trinity prop who is one of the victims of the Wildcats' financial crash. Stephenson, expected to be named next week in John Kear's England World Cup squad, had his contract terminated last week and has also attracted interest from Bradford, Leeds and Castleford.

He was at the JJB Stadium for talks yesterday and Wigan, who could lose three of their four front-line props this winter, could be the keenest of the candidates to sign him.

Wigan are already planning to announce the signing of Hull's Irish winger, Brian Carney, today and a 24-year-old prop of Stephenson's potential would be another important addition for next season. Stephenson will follow Francis Maloney and the Hull-bound Steve Prescott in leaving the troubled club. On top of that, Wakefield's four overseas players have appealed to be exempted from the foreigners quota at other clubs, claiming that they could otherwise be excluded through no fault of their own.

Willie Poching is interesting Salford, who have already signed Maloney, and he would be the easiest to place. Martin Masella could be a target for Warrington, but most clubs already have their allowance of imports filled for next season. The Rugby League, which is already paying Wakefield's wages until the end of the season, is to consider the requests for exemption.

St Helens will be able to field Paul Sculthorpe in their match against Wigan on Friday, after the League ruled that he had no case to answer over a suspected spear tackle for which he was placed on report at the London Broncos on Saturday. They could however, be without Keiron Cunningham, who aggravated a back injury at The Valley.

Saints have asked their Yorkshire-based players to stay west of the Pennines before the game against Wigan because pf fears of the fuel running out.

Scotland have resigned themselves to being without two of the Australians who they hoped would use their grandparental qualifications to play for them in the World Cup. Paul McGregor has failed to recover from a shoulder injury which has kept him out of action all season, while his former team mate at St George-Illawarra, the Bradford loose forward, Brad Mackay, is returning to Australia during the close season because his wife is expecting a baby. The Scots are still hoping to name Ian Hindmarsh, whose elder brother, Jason, is in the Australian squad, when they finalise their own squad next week.

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