Rugby League: Hanley in late try for fitness

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The Independent Online
LEEDS will have their prop, Neil Harmon, in their Wembley side and hope that Ellery Hanley will be in the line-up alongside him.

Harmon, who broke his thumb in the match against Sheffield Eagles earlier this month, had his cast removed yesterday. The Leeds coach, Doug Laughton, who had been sceptical about his chances, heard the good news that he was fit and immediately named him in the team for the Silk Cut Challenge Cup final on Saturday.

Hanley's situation is more problematic and more crucial to Leeds' hopes. The hamstring that he pulled in the match against Widnes last week is still giving him trouble, but Laughton remains desperately anxious to have him in the team.

'There are three days to go before the final and we want to give Ellery every chance to recover,' he said. 'We may even leave a decision until Saturday morning.' That scenario is reminiscent of the final in 1991, when Wigan gave Hanley a fitness test on the running track at Wembley before the kick-off.

Such is Hanley's importance to his club, as captain, organiser and general inspiration, that the temptation to play him even if he is less than entirely fit might prove irresistible.

In an intervew last night, Hanley indicated that even if he does play he would like Garry Schofield to lead the side out because he has waited so long to be in the starting line-up in a major final.

Two other hamstring victims, who both suffered injury during last Saturday's final league game against Bradford Northern, are definite starters at Wembley. Kevin Iro, the scorer of six tries there during his Wigan days, and Graham Holroyd were both passed fit yesterday.

Leeds have not yet decided on their substitutes for the final, but the need to provide some cover in case Hanley or Harmon breaks down could see the young loose forward, Marcus Vassilakopoulos, and the veteran prop, Mike O'Neill, named.

Wigan, meanwhile, have agreed a new three-year contract with Shaun Edwards, who had been linked with Leeds and Auckland Warriors.

Leeds (v Wigan, Challenge Cup final, Wembley, Saturday, probable): Tait; Fallon, Iro, Innes, Cummins; Holroyd, Schofield; Harmon, Lowes, Howard, Mercer, Eyres, Hanley.

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