Rugby League: Heslop switches codes to Oldham

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The Independent Online
NIGEL HESLOP, the former England rugby union winger, will today be announced as the latest signing for Oldham, the only Second Division side in yesterday's draw for the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup.

Heslop, capped 10 times by England, has missed the registration date for Oldham's tie against Bradford Northern on 28 February, but will play for Oldham in their home game against Carlisle on Sunday. He last played for England, as a replacement for Will Carling, in the 1992 Five Nations' Championship game against Wales at Twickenham.

The signing is a coup for the Oldham coach, Peter Tunks, who has been pursuing Heslop for the last six months. 'I went watching a number of other players for Lancashire and The North, but he was the one that always caught my eye,' said Tunks. 'He is very quick, his defence is good and his role in the last two Grand Slam sides shows that he is a big match player.'

Heslop, 29, is the first England rugby union international to switch codes since Peter Williams and John Bentley in 1988. His deal with Oldham, a self-confessed pauper amongst rugby league clubs, bears no comparison with the contracts that have enticed other players across the divide.

'His payments will be based on incentives only. He just wants to try to reach the same level in league that he did in union,' Tunks said. Heslop's last barrier was overcome this week, when his employers, Merseyside Police, gave him permission, on condition that he will be released if his duties demand.

Wigan will travel to Yorkshire for the next stage of their attempt to win a sixth successive Challenge Cup, but they will not know until tomorrow night whether it will be to play the First Division side, Halifax or Batley, of the Third Division.

Fog at Thrum Hall prevented the game taking place on Sunday, but Halifax will be favourites when the game does go ahead. A Batley win would mean Wigan visiting Mount Pleasant for the second time in the Cup. They beat Dewsbury, who are playing there while they wait for a new ground to be completed, in the first round.

The highlight of the draw takes Castleford, last year's beaten finalists, to Leeds, candidates to start to justify their expensive rebuilding by reaching Wembley.

Widnes went into two important meetings last night - one with their players to discuss reduced contracts and one with their members to explore becoming a limited company - knowing that they have a quarter-final at Hull Kingston Rovers which should be within their capabilities.

David Mycoe, the Sheffield Eagles centre who broke his ankle in the Challenge Cup defeat by Widnes on Sunday, has been replaced in the Great Britain Under- 21 squad for the match against France at Rochdale tomorrow by Gareth Stephens, of Leeds. Kevin Ward, who dislocated his thumb in St Helens' loss to Wigan on Saturday, may also have broken it and is expected to miss several matches.

SILK CUT CHALLENGE CUP Quarter-final draw: Hull Kingston Rovers v Widnes; Halifax or Batley v Wigan; Oldham v Bradford Northern; Leeds v Castleford. (Ties to be played on 27 and 28 February).

Ross Strudwick, who resigned as general manager of London Crusaders at the weekend, is to have talks with the Rugby League about continuing in his role developing the game in the capital.

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