Rugby League: Nines opportunity for Goulding

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The withdrawal of Keiron Cunningham from the Great Britain squad for the World Nines in Townsville, Australia, has created an unexpected opportunity for his St Helens team-mate, Bobbie Goulding.

The Test hooker has pulled out of this month's trip with a knee injury, leaving the squad's coach, Andy Gregory, needing a replacement from Saints, because of the restriction of one player per club.

Goulding is Gregory's first choice as a stand-in. He has played at hooker in the past and could certainly adapt to the role in a nine-a-side format. What is more doubtful is whether he is in the right frame of mind for any type of rugby at the moment.

Saints' captain says he is determined to leave the club if they will not improve his contract, which has three years to run, and that he is to talk to other clubs next week. He has been linked with rugby union clubs, as well as league sides in Australia, but St Helens say they have had no approaches and that Goulding has not even asked them for a move.

The Great Britain captain, Andy Farrell, is hopeful of recovering from a stubborn thigh strain in time to fly out with the squad next Friday. The Bradford Bulls full-back, Stuart Spruce, has been given permission to follow the rest of the party three days later, as he is getting married next Saturday.

There will be a host of new faces on show tomorrow in a batch of pre- season friendlies. Vince Fawcett and Brett Goldspink are expected to play for Oldham in the last game at the Watersheddings, while their opponents, Swinton, have three New Zealanders - Marlon Gardiner, Jason Walker and Gareth Adams - in line to make debuts.

Warrington and Salford will both field remodelled packs in the testimonial for Gary Sanderson at Wilderspool, and Leeds' recent signings - Dean Lawford, Ryan Sheridan and Anthony Farrell - will play against their former club when Sheffield Eagles visit Headingley.

The former Wigan full-back, Shaun Tyrer, is training with Leigh after being out of the game for two years because of a contract dispute with Whitehaven.

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