Rugby League: New dish on the menu

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The Independent Online
FRIDAY night rugby league, already a staple of the Australian season, comes to Britain tonight, courtesy of satellite television.

The main consequence of the League's exclusive championship deal with BSkyB - a deal which does not look quite as attractive to supporters now that the matches are to be on a pay channel - is that one game every weekend will be played on Friday evening for live transmission to those with a dish.

The visit of Wigan, who yesterday confirmed the signing of the Australian centre, Andrew Farrar, to promoted Sheffield Eagles is a tasty first offering and it will be interesting to see how the gate at the Don Valley Stadium stands up to the competition of the armchair. Sheffield, celebrating promotion for the second time, are doing their best to make it an occasion, with fireworks and a male voice choir.

They also have reason to argue that they will present Wigan with a real challenge. Their two British internationals, Daryl Powell and Mark Aston, and promising youngsters like David Mycoe are two years older and wiser than when they were last in the First Division.

Paul Carr, the Australian signed from Hunslet, makes his debut in the second row, although the Eagles' coach, Gary Hetherington, wishes that his two more experienced Australian recruits, Garry Jack and Bruce McGuire, were arriving this week rather than next.

The Wigan coach, John Monie, has made it clear that another uncommited effort like the one against St Helens in the Charity Shield last week will not be tolerated. For the moment, changes have been kept to the minimum. Shaun Edwards, fit again, and Andy Platt, re-signed to sighs of relief, come into the side, with Sam Panapa and Ian Lucas dropping down to substitute.

Pressure for places will increase when Farrar, one of the most experienced centres in Australia, arrives at Central Park, but that will not be until his club, Western Suburbs, are knocked out of Sydney's end-of-season play-offs.

FRIDAY NIGHT MATCHES: Tonight: Sheffield v Wigan. 4 September: Hull KR v Widnes. 18: Hull v Warrington. 25: Wigan v Widnes. 2 October: Wakefield v St Helens. 9: Warrington v Bradford. 16: Salford v Castleford.