Murphy banks on improved morale

Rugby League
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The Independent Online
Rugby League

DAVE HADFIELD

An extra, weather-imposed week of preparation has left the new men in charge at St Helens and Warrington raring to go in their delayed Silk Cut Challenge Cup ties tomorrow.

The new Warrington football executive, Alex Murphy, believes that morale at the club has improved dramatically during the build-up to the tie at Oldham. "What John Dorahy and I have done together since we arrived 12 days ago is to build up the team spirit by leaps and bounds," he said.

The test of that optimism will come at the Watersheddings, where Dorahy will stick to the side he selected before last week's postponement, and Oldham's Andy Goodway will wait for fitness tests on Jason Temu and Paul Topping.

Saints' new coach, Shaun McRae, also feels that he has benefited from the delay in his side's meeting with Castleford. "I've been more comfortable with our preparation this week," he said. "There was a lot of extra work to get through off the field, but this week I've been able to concentrate on getting face to face with the players."

McRae will be without Ian Pickavance, who has strained a groin in training, so Andy Leatham comes in at prop.

The Leeds coach, Dean Bell, has expressed disappointment at the decision of his hooker, James Lowes, to sign for Bradford Bulls. "The news came as a shock," Bell said. "We offered him a contract and he made the decision to accept an offer from Bradford."

Bradford, at home to Batley, cannot play Lowes until the start of the Super League, but their coach, Brian Smith, is delighted with his new acquisition, the fee for whom has yet to be disclosed. "He brings not only talent to the team, but a great appetite for work," Smith said.

The ruling in the court case that will decide whether Super League can kick off in Australia has been delayed until late February - only a week before the season is due to start.

The wildest of the predictions is that the judge will rule that there can be no top level rugby league in Australia at all this year, because of the continuing battle between Super League and the Australian .

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