Rugby League: Edwards freed to tackle Bramley and continue his Cup run

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The Independent Online
Rugby League

DAVE HADFIELD

Wigan will have their captain, Shaun Edwards, available to maintain his record of playing in every Challenge Cup tie since their astonishing run of 42 victories began in 1988.

Edwards' appeal against a one match ban for a high tackle on Bradford's Robbie Paul succeeded yesterday, leaving him free to face Bramley tomorrow in the fourth round.

"Obviously I'm glad," said Edwards. "If I hit someone I expect to be suspended, but in this case I was innocent."

Bramley, four from the foot of the Second Division at the end of the season last week, can hark back to a famous Cup performance against Wigan in 1984.

Ironically in Edwards' first-ever tie, they forced a 10-10 draw at the now abandoned McLaren Field, and Wigan, coached by one Alex Murphy, would not even have taken the tie to a replay - and eventually reached Wembley for the first time in 14 years - had it not been for a try from Graeme West, the club's current coach. Bramley will not be as tricky a hurdle this time.

Last season's beaten finalists, Leeds, also seem to have a task that is well within their compass with an away tie at Swinton. They have James Lowes at scrum-half and Garry Schofield back in his specialist position of stand-off for the match at Gigg Lane, but Harvey Howard is still under suspension.

Just up the road at Rochdale, the Hornets could find Thatto Heath, one of the two amateur clubs to reach this stage, a handful if the St Helens- based side play as well as they did in beating Chorley in the last round.

The new regimes at St Helens and Warrington get an early and demanding test. Saints' new coach, Shaun McRae, is first in the firing line, when his new side take on Castleford today.

McRae is without Joey Hayes, with a hamstring strain, but has Anthony Sullivan back on the wing and other recent absentees of the stature of Paul Newlove and Bobbie Goulding fit again. "They are a very talented bunch of players," McRae said after his first three days in charge. "I'm not trying to build Rome in a day but just offering a bit of guidance when it's needed."

Castleford covered their pitch before the onset of the severe weather and are confident of being able to stage the match.

They will, however, be without their England stand-off, Tony Smith, whose appeal against a one-match ban was rejected yesterday. Graham Steadman and Gareth Stephens have been named as the half-backs, with Frano Botica feeling that he is not yet ready for the first team.

Warrington's new coach, John Dorahy - no doubt with some advice from the club's other new appointment, Alex Murphy - has made some significant changes for the visit to Oldham, with Andy Currier and Mark Forster on the wings and Mike Ford restricted to a place on the bench.

The Carlisle second row forward Stuart Rhodes has been banned for five matches. Rhodes, who has also been fined pounds 50, was placed on report by referee Nick Oddy during his side's 36-6 defeat of amateurs West Bowling in the third round of the Cup nearly a fortnight ago.

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