Quinnell set to make union switch

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The Independent Online
Wigan yesterday sounded resigned to losing their Welsh forward, Scott Quinnell, to Richmond, after the union club made him "an offer he can't refuse".

The 23-year-old dual international, who joined Wigan on a four-year contract worth a basic pounds 50,000 a season in September 1994, is expected to join Richmond at the end of this Super League season. The Wigan chairman, Jack Robinson, confirmed Richmond's approach and said that the offer to the player, thought to be around pounds 300,000 over three years, would double his earnings. "We really cannot match such financial power, whilst Scott has an offer he probably can't refuse," he said.

Wigan's straitened finances have seen them fail to retain a string of leading players over the last two years and others, like the Test prop, Kelvin Skerrett, would leave for the right offer.

"Our first team squad is thin already,"Graeme West, their coach, said. "This is another frustrating piece of news. We really can't afford to lose any more players. The ones that have already left haven't been replaced."

The question of a fee for Quinnell, a major success in league after a tentative start, has still to be addressed. His move back to union, however, would mark a shift in the relationship between the two codes of rugby. Although players like Jonathan Davies and Adrian Hadley have returned to union and David Young is due to do so at the end of this season, Quinnell would be the first convert to switch back while still in his prime.

Richmond are also thought to be pursuing a deal to take Leeds' former Bath winger, Jim Fallon, back to the 15-a-side game.

Meanwhile, Quinnell will play for Wigan against Paris St Germain tomorrow, although Skerrett, Neil Cowie and Martin Offiah are all doubtful and face fitness tests today.

Much of the interest elsewhere will centre on how St Helens and the Bradford Bulls get back into their stride after last Saturday's classic Silk Cut Challenge Cup final at Wembley.

Super League leaders Saints are at home to Oldham, with the Cup-tied Australian, Derek McVey, coming into their pack to replace the injured Andy Northey. Oldham, the surprise side of the competition so far, are without the suspended Scott Ranson and Jason Temu and, more damagingly still, their injured captain, Martin Crompton.

The Bulls have been a magnet for sympathy and praise after their efforts in the final, but the fact remains that they have now lost their last three games and badly need a win over Warrington this afternoon. They are without a Wembley casualty, Sonny Nickle being ruled out with a dislocated shoulder, but have the Cup-tied James Lowes and Steve McNamara back.

Bradford have denied rumours that their captain and Wembley Lance Todd Trophy winner, Robbie Paul, is to join his brother, Henry, at Wigan.

Leeds have their captain, Neil Harmon, back in their starting line-up and Carl Hall on the bench against the London Broncos, with Marcus Vassilakopoulos preferred to Mick Shaw at hooker.