Rugby league: Adamson row erupts at Saints

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ST HELENS' opponents, starting with Castleford tonight, must be wondering whether the cracks are starting to appear at Knowsley Road.

Not only did Saints lose their first match of the Super League season in the most unlikely of circumstances against Wakefield last Friday, but an internal row also threatens their marvellous start to the campaign.

Their coach, Ellery Hanley, and their football executive, Eric Hughes, are in conflict over the vexed case of Phil Adamson, the Australian prop signed before Hanley's appointment who has yet to start a first-team game.

Hanley's unsuccessful attempt to have a piece inserted in Saints' programme denying responsibility for signing Adamson has seen him refuse to contribute any further thoughts and has opened a rift between him and Hughes, who says that he is disappointed that Adamson has become a cause celebre.

Hughes issued a statement yesterday supporting Hanley's right to pick the side as he sees fit, without interference. "But I could not support singling out any player in the club's match-day programme for any such special attention," he said. Hanley is still likely to be without Kevin Iro and Fereti Tuilagi for the game at Wheldon Road, on paper a more difficult proposition than Wakefield five days ago.

Castleford, fourth in the table, are without Francis Maloney, with Adrian Vowles moving to centre to try to do as good a marking job as Trinity's Adrian Brunker on Paul Newlove.

In tonight's other game, Gateshead will field their first non-Australian, with the Irish winger, Brian Carney, making his debut at home to Hull.

Gateshead are likely to be the last new franchise to be admitted for the immediate future, according to Super League's managing director, Maurice Lindsay. Speaking before the meeting of the Super League board yesterday, Lindsay, who is to retire this year but will retain responsibility for the League's expansion policy, said that the time was right for consolidation. Although there have been expressions of interest from South Wales, the Midlands and Scotland, his advice will be to wait until at least 2001.

Super League's current bottom club, Salford, have confirmed that the Australian, John Harvey, is to be their new coach. Harvey, previously in charge at the Gold Coast, has accepted Salford's contract, but the need to obtain a work permits means that it will be at least the middle of next month before he arrives.