Rugby League: Injuries blight Wigan's preparation: St Helens seek to deny rivals' unique grand slam

 

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The Independent Online

Wigan's bid for a unique grand slam of the domestic trophies has been blighted by the sort of inadequate preparation which, if one had not heard it before other victories, might indicate that tomorrow's Premiership final against St Helens at Old Trafford is the one they are going to lose.

John Monie, for the first time in four years in charge, called off a training session mid-way on Thursday night, because there were not enough fit players to make it worthwhile.

A further, make-or-break session yesterday ruled out Steve Hampson, Joe Lydon, and - most damagingly - the club captain, Dean Bell. Paul Atcheson, with just a handful of first- team games behind him since signing from Widnes, will be at full-back, with Mick Cassidy coming into the second row.

The one conundrum for the St Helens coach, Mike McClennan, is at scrum-half. Both Jonathan Griffiths and Gus O'Donnell picked up knocks in the semi-final and face fitness tests.

With two wins and a draw against Wigan this season, Saints have no inferiority complex. 'We are equal in talent and we comprehensively outplayed them in the league,' McClennan said. Whether they can do so in a major final is the question they have been unable to answer since the Lancashire Cup final of 1984.

The Premiership final forms part of a triple bill, with proceedings starting with the Academy Challenge Cup final for under-18s, between Hull and Warrington.

The Divisional Premiership final brings together the Second Division champions, Featherstone, and Workington of the Third, who have beaten two sides from the division above on their way to Old Trafford.

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