Rugby League: Eagles seek new kicker

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IT IS not quite the midway point in the Super League season but, after this weekend, each side will have played its rivals once, so it is still a suitable time to be taking stock.

The Sheffield Eagles try to literally kick-start their season at home to St Helens today. Their coach, John Kear, was holding auditions for a goal-kicker after deciding to relieve Marcus Vassilakopoulos of the duties. Sheffield have struggled to land their goals since the loss of Mark Aston and Matt Crowther with long-term injuries and Martin Wood is likely to be given a chance.

Saints have doubts about the forwards Julian O'Neill and Paul Sculthorpe, but are likely to keep the half-back combination of Tommy Martyn and Sean Long, with Bobbie Goulding on the bench.

London and Castleford are two clubs for whom the half-term report must read "could do better". London suffered their heaviest Super League defeat at Saints last week and Tony Currie will make changes, bringing back Luke Goodwin and Terry Matterson and giving the Saracens winger Kris Chesney a debut in place of the still absent Martin Offiah.

If a Wembley victory doused the fires at Sheffield, then two wins in the earlier rounds seemed to do the same to Castleford. Their coach, Stuart Raper, who signed a new contract this week, felt that some players were still living off victories over Leeds and Bradford.

The League leaders, Wigan, give a start to Mick Cassidy against Warrington who will be without Jon Roper for two months with a broken leg.

Bradford, who have already lost twice as many matches as last season, add Brian McDermott and Sonny Nickle to their injury list at Salford. Matthew Elliott blooded one teenager last week in Stuart Fielden and may give a debut to the scrum-half, Paul Deacon.

l Queensland beat New South Wales 19-4 in the deciding State of Origin match yesterday.