Rugby League: Centre left to judge fitness

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The Independent Online
GRAHAM MURRAY, the Leeds coach, will leave it up to Richie Blackmore to decide whether he is fit to face Wigan in the game on Sunday that leads to the Super League Grand Final.

Blackmore missed the victory over Halifax last Sunday with a hernia that will require surgery as soon as his club commitments are over, thus ruling him out of New Zealand's Test series against Great Britain.

"I'm going to tell him it's his decision," Murray said. "He knows what his body will stand. Up to last week, I would have said that it was 100 per cent important to us to have him in the side for the Wigan game, but we have proved now that we can win tough football matches without him."

Apart from the question mark over Blackmore, Murray expects to field the same team that beat Halifax, with his other first-choice centre, Brad Godden, recovered from the battering he took in that game.

Halifax, who play St Helens in the elimination match tomorrow night, have appealed for their playmaker, Gavin Clinch, to be given more protection in what remains of the season. Clinch has been the victim of a series of late tackles, particularly after he has got a kick away.

"He could do with some more protection," John Pendlebury, his coach, said. "There's no need for players to be going in as late as they are. If they penalise one or two of them it would start to sort it out."

Clinch, in outstanding form throughout a season that has seen Halifax exceed all expectations, says he is not the only player to suffer from the tactic.

There are other individuals who are being targeted as well, he says, with the late tackle on the non-kicking leg becoming almost a recognised technique.

"It can put you out for the year and I don't think it's part of the game," he said. "If that's what you're trying to do I don't think you should be in the game."

Featherstone, who expect to name their new coach today, hope to have a strengthened side on the field against the French champions, St Esteve, in the second leg of the Treize Tournoi at Post Office Road on Sunday. Asa Amone, Gary Price and Mick Clarkson are all due to return to a side beaten in Limoux in the first round of matches.

The club says that it has had numerous approaches about its richly talented young back, Karl Pratt.

"But we are still waiting for the first serious offer," said the Featherstone secretary, Terry Mullaney.

"People want to take him for nothing, but, if he's going to leave, he's going to go for what he's worth."