Rugby League: McRae leaves job with Britain

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The Independent Online
THE ST Helens coach, Shaun McRae, has left his other job as assistant to Andy Goodway with the Great Britain team little more than a month before the Test series against New Zealand.

McRae, who becomes the coach of the new Gateshead team after the end of this season, feels that he needs to devote more time to that and will not be able to concentrate on helping Goodway and his squad prepare to face the Kiwis.

"I can't see me being able to be in camp for three weeks," he said. "The new franchise is obviously going to take up a lot of my time so it is better to make a clean break now."

McRae, who has filled a similar role with Australian and New Zealand teams, says there has been no fall-out between him and Goodway. "Andy is pretty upset about it, but he understands my position," he said.

The technical director of the Rugby League, Joe Lydon, said, "Shaun's contribution has been invaluable, but we appreciate that he has other commitments." There are no plans to bring in a replacement before the series begins.

McRae is concerned about one of his signings for Gateshead, the Canterbury second-rower Tony Grimaldi, who had an outstanding game in their defeat by the Brisbane Broncos in the Australian Grand Final but had to go off with a serious shoulder injury.

Meanwhile, a former Great Britain international is appealing to Goodway not to forget about him for the forthcoming series. Lee Jackson was unveiled as a Leeds player yesterday and said that he still hoped to make the Test squad, despite not been able to play for his new club until next year because Sheffield Eagles still hold his registration.

The Leeds coach, Graham Murray, said that Jackson, who has been playing for the Newcastle Knights in Australia, will be his first-choice hooker next season.

St Helens hope to confirm the signing of Kevin Iro. The former Wigan centre, who has been playing for the Auckland Warriors in his native New Zealand, has been lined up as the first major signing under the Ellery Hanley regime at Knowsley Road.

"To say that he has signed or is about to sign would be premature, but he is certainly one that Ellery admires," Saints' football manager, Eric Hughes, said.

One player on the way out of Knowsley Road is Karle Hammond, who has agreed a two-year deal with London Broncos. The 24-year-old has been out of contract at St Helens and was a target for several clubs.

The Broncos' chief executive, Tony Rea, said: "Karle is an exceptionally talented player. His signing is a real coup for the club."

Steve Simms' reward for taking Featherstone so close to the First Division championship is likely to be the offer of a pay cut to stay on.

"We've the highest regard for him, but it is a matter of what we can afford, " the Featherstone director, Steve Wagner, said. "If we can agree terms with him, I think he will stay, but it's fair to say that we won't be able to offer him what he's getting now.

Featherstone, along with the First Division Grand Final winners, Wakefield Trinity, and the Second Division champions, Lancashire Lynx, go to France this weekend for the first leg of the Treize Tournoi.

Wakefield play a Villenuve side that should include the Australian Test forward, Paul Fironen, whilst Featherstone take on Limoux and Lancashire go to St Esteve.

Wakefield are well advanced with ground plans which they believe will qualify them for Super League membership next season. They intend to install temporary seating at Belle Vue to bring it up to the required capacity before moving to a new ground at Ossett for 2000.