Paul and Nickle escape bans

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A key player from each side has been cleared to play in the Regal Trophy quarter-final between Wigan and St Helens on Sunday, writes Dave Hadfield. Wigan's Henry Paul and Saints' Sonny Nickle were found not guilty of offences for which they were sent off.

Paul was dismissed for what was described as a "late swinging arm" during the league match between the sides on Boxing Day. He claimed that he had never intended to make contact with the Saints' player, Steve Prescott, and was cleared of the charge when he made a personal appearance at yesterday's disciplinary committee meeting in Leeds.

Nickle, the St Helens and Great Britain forward sent off for an alleged head-high tackle against Widnes on New Year's Day, also succeeded with his not guilty plea.

He is the latest of a number of players to emerge without suspension after recent sendings-off, which must raise questions over how well referees are keeping up with the increasing pace of the game.

The St Helens centre, Scott Gbbs, is seeing a specialist today, hoping to be given the all-clear to continue playing despite a groin injury. The former Welsh rugby union international had feared he would need an operation, but is now optimistic of avoiding surgery.

Barrie McDermott, Wigan's Test prop, who has been out of action with a groin injury since November, was due to make a comeback in the Alliance side last night.

Gary Hetherington, the Sheffield Eagles chairman and Great Britain assistant coach, is to take a 10-man British squad to the World Sevens in Australia in February. Hetherington will have only the second choice of the country's best players, however, because the Sevens clash with the match between Wales and England in the revived European Championship.

That match is to be played in Cardiff on 1 February, two days after the squad leave for Sydney, and it means that players like Martin Offiah and Jonathan Davies will be missing from the Sevens, much to the organisers' disappointment.

Allan Bateman, another Welshman who will not now be available for the Sevens, is also out of Sunday's Regal Trophy quarter-final at Keighley with a hamstring injury.

Andy Goodway has agreed an extra year's contract to carry on coaching Oldham after the end of the season. The former Wigan and Great Britain second row was widely regarded as facing a formidable task to keep Oldham in the First Division when he took overfrom Bob Lindner last summer. However, some excellent form has seen Oldham move to eighth in the table, well clear of the relegation zone.