Rugby league: New Zealand coach angers Monie with new Paul approach

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The Independent Online
JOHN MONIE, the Wigan coach, is angry that Frank Endacott, the New Zealand national coach and his successor at the Auckland Warriors, has tried again to persuade Henry Paul to play in the Tests against Australia next month.

The Kiwis play twice while Wigan are involved in the Super League play- offs and an international meeting has already decided that their English- based players should not be called up.

But Endacott, once Monie's assistant at Auckland, has urged Paul - who joins Bradford at the end of this season - to ask again for his release.

"It was a stupid phone call for him to make," said Monie. "The result was that I got a call from Henry asking again if he could go and I had to tell him that the decision had already been made, which knocked him about during the build-up to the Bradford match."

Wigan have rejected the idea of cutting their losses with Paul and bringing in his earmarked replacement, Greg Florimo, early for the play-offs.

"It could have been a possibility, but Henry has been playing too well," Monie said.

Wigan are at risk of losing Robbie McCormack, the Australian hooker who has been one of the outstanding contributors to their success this season. The club, struggling to get under its salary cap, has made McCormack a reduced contract offer which he has described as "insulting".

Monie has persuaded the club to increase its offer to McCormack slightly. "But I still don't think he's very happy," he said. "It's in his hands now and, if he doesn't accept by the end of the week, it looks as though we will lose him.

"I don't want to, because he's been a very good player for us this season, but we have another good hooker in Jon Clarke."

Two former Wigan players are to form the new coaching team at Widnes. Colin Whitfield, who has been caretaker-coach since the sacking of Graeme West, has been given the job of head coach on a one year contract, with Brian Case as his assistant.

Widnes, who failed to make an impact in the First Division this year, had been linked with Castleford's Mike Ford as a prospective player-coach. But the club's football secretary, Frank Myler, said: "We think Colin could do a good job for us."

Widnes have signed two New Zealanders for next season - the Hunslet stand- off, Paul Mansson, and Gareth Adams, the second-rower released by Swinton.

Bradford and St Helens will be without their hookers for their elimination play-off game in 10 days' time. The Bulls' James Lowes suffered severe concussion at Wigan on Sunday while Keiron Cunningham broke his hand in Friday's victory at London Broncos.