Raper ready to make his mark

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Rugby League

Castleford believe they have found the man to transform their dismal season: one of Australia's brightest young coaches. The Yorkshire club, bottom of Super League without a point, have appointed Stuart Raper, the reserve grade coach at Cronulla, to succeed John Joyner. He will arrive next week, in time for the match against St Helens at Anfield.

"Stuart was the stand-out candidate from our list of applicants," said the Castleford chief executive, Richard Wright. "After long discussions, he certainly seems to be the man to turn things around for us.

"We are in a false position and, if Stuart can get the best out of the players, we can easily finish in mid-table. We will add to the squad once he has identified the players he needs."

Raper, aged 32, played for Cronulla, Western Suburbs and St George, as well as having a season with Oldham 10 years ago, but he was always plagued by comparisons with his father, Johnny Raper, one of the game's legendary figures. As a coach, however, he has made his own mark, with the Cronulla and Australian Super League coach, John Lang, describing him as one of the best young coaches in the game.

"I have every confidence in Stuart," Lang said. "Whenever I called upon a player from reserve grade I could rely on that player being ready for the challenge - the finished product." Raper has also had to stand down from his role as coach of the Australian Super League Under-19 side - a post that is testimony to his reputation for grooming young players. Mick Morgan remains in charge for Castleford's home game against Halifax on Sunday, with Raper due to arrive on next week.

The bottom club in the first division, Swinton, have appointed the former Great Britain loose forward, Les Holliday, as their new coach.

London Broncos will have the high number - for them - of five British players in their line-up against Salford tonight. Shaun Edwards and Tulsen Tollett will be joined by the former Cambridge University captain, Adrian Spencer, at hooker and by two players making their full Super League debuts: the Scottish full-back, Nick Mardon, and the London-born prop, Matt Salter, who won a place on Great Britain's Academy tour of New Zealand last year after just a handful of games of rugby league. There is also an imposing newcomer on the bench: the 6ft 8in, 21 stone Mick Seaby from Brisbane.

The Broncos will be missing their prop forward Russell Bawden, who loses his ever-present record for after picking up a three-match ban yesterday. Bawden was placed on report for a dangerous tackle in London's 24-24 draw at Halifax last Sunday.

Wigan have pulled out of the bidding for the Halifax hooker, Paul Rowley. He has also been interesting Warrington, but Halifax have stressed that they want him to stay at Thrum Hall.

The Widnes referee, Stuart Cummings, has completed a remarkable double by being appointed to take charge of the Silk Cut Challenge Cup final on 3 May, just eight days after refereeing the Test between Australia and New Zealand in Sydney.

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