Rugby League: Eagles must soar despite clipped wings

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The Independent Online
JOHN KEAR, so critical of the Sheffield Eagles' performance in defeat at Warrington on Monday, finds his scope for manoeuvre limited against Halifax tonight.

Karl Lovell, Bright Sodje and Paul Anderson are all injured, Dale Laughton is suspended and Marcus Vassilakopoulos on loan to Hull KR. Most significantly, Mark Aston, who bore the brunt of Kear's disappointment, is out with a groin injury.

"He's had it for a few weeks and hasn't been himself," said Kear, who must decide between Martin Pearson and Chris Thorman for the scrum-half role.

Gateshead are at full strength at Wigan tomorrow, rotating their props to start with Andrew Hick rather than Danny Lee. Wigan expect to have Paul Johnson and Simon Haughton back in a side that is getting closer to their first choice line-up, although there is a doubt over Greg Florimo.

London performed creditably in the aftermath of Wembley at Halifax on Wednesday. Lifting themselves again for the visit of Castleford could prove a bigger problem, although the first of their projected reinforcements, Scott Cram from St George-Illawarra, is due to arrive in time to play. The Broncos have signed another forward, the New Zealander Andrew Wynard, from the same club.

Point-less Salford, in the middle of a run of demanding fixtures, including Wigan last Monday and Leeds next Wednesday, are at Bradford and will do well to escape without another heavy defeat to further weaken the ice beneath Andy Gregory's feet.

Gregory has dropped Paul Carige and gives Craig Makin his first start since signing from Widnes in the winter. Tevita Vaikona moves to the centre to cover for the absence of Danny Peacock for Bradford. Leon Pryce comes in on the wing.

Hull, boosted by their first win of the season, over Wakefield on Monday, are at home to Warrington, who have Danny Nutley back after missing three matches. Steve McCurrie drops out with a groin injury.

York's players went ahead with their Northern Ford Premiership fixture at Dewsbury last night after their overdue wages were paid by the club.

Today marks the start of the second full season of the highly successful Rugby League Conference, with six new clubs joining the competition for towns and cities outside the sport's mainstream.