Rugby league: Hanley calls on young centres

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THE ST HELENS coach, Ellery Hanley, deprived of perhaps the most powerful centre pairing in the game, will put his faith in two virtually untried young players in his first competitive match in charge on Sunday.

Saints will not only be without their new signing, Kevin Iro, with an ankle injury but are also almost certain to have to manage without Paul Newlove, who has strained a hamstring, in the Silk Cut Challenge Cup tie at Hunslet.

That means a full debut for 18-year-old Paul Wellens, alongside Anthony Stewart, just a year older and with only a handful of first-team games on the wing behind him.

Hanley, however, has complete confidence in the youngster players, both of them Great Britain Academy internationals, he has had to call up.

"Wellens has so much ability that he can play in just about any position in the backs," he said. "He is so confident and his attitude is excellent."

The match also marks the competitive debuts of Saints' close season signings, Sonny Nickle, Fereti Tuilagi and Phil Adamson, the latter two on the bench.

Saints have signed the Oldham prop Michael Edwards. Edwards joins his home town club on a free transfer.

The Leeds coach, Graham Murray, is delaying a decision on who will play hooker for him in the tie of the round, against Wigan. Lee Jackson and Terry Newton, who have both played for Great Britain in the position, are both fit and in the 17-man squad, but Murray has yet to finalise who will start in the role on Sunday.

Britain's leading referee, Russell Smith, is to take charge of the Student Rugby League Varsity Match at Richmond on 9 March. "Russell took some persuading, because he didn't want to take someone else's appointment," said the Student Rugby League's director, Neil Wood. "But we convinced him that he would only help the profile of the game."