Rugby League: Offiah and Edwards left out after Regal rebuke: Wigan back Dorahy's decision to drop stars

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The Independent Online
NORMAL cup issues are overshadowed this weekend by the presence or absence of famous names from team sheets. The Wigan coach, John Dorahy, has made what he clearly regards as an important stand by leaving Shaun Edwards and Martin Offiah out of the starting line-up for the Regal Trophy tie at Whitehaven.

Dorahy's anger with the pair goes back to their non-appearance at Castleford the day after the second Test against New Zealand. He has now signalled his displeasure by naming Edwards, who has been away from the ground this week with flu, as a substitute at Whitehaven and by playing Offiah at centre in last night's A team home game against Castleford. The Great Britain player did score one try after a 30-yard run, but he was unable to inspire the reserves to victory as they lost 26-16.

'I thought long and hard about what measures I needed to take,' Dorahy said. 'I took my thoughts to the chairman and the board has backed me to the hilt. Martin is disappointed and does not agree with my reasons, but he has accepted it like a professional. I haven't been able to contact Shaun, but I hope he will be professional about it as well and we can then put it behind us.'

Dorahy's tough disciplinary stance means a first-team debut on the left wing for Darren Williams, who has been scoring regularly in the A team, and a third senior appearance at scrum-half for Craig Murdock in his native Cumbria.

Harvey Howard, absent from Naughton Park all season, could make his comeback in the tie against Doncaster. Howard, who walked out on the club threatening to start a new career in Australia, turned up at training this week and was put into the A team to play Featherstone last night. He may be named as a substitute tomorrow, when Widnes will be without John Devereux, who is seeing a specialist about a back problem.

Richard Webster, the former Wales rugby union international, will make his first-team debut for Salford from the bench against Leeds today. Steve Blakely and Keri Brookfield have been ruled out by injury, with Shaun Brown and Mark Lee stepping in. The Leeds scrum-half, Andy Gregory, wanted by Salford and Wakefield, is not in a side containing Gareth Stephens at No 7, James Lowes at stand-off for the first time and Colin Maskill playing his first match of the season at hooker.

In the only other all-First Division tie, Castleford have Lee Crooks back after injury, but opponents Hull KR will be without David Hosking, who has gone back to Australia to get married.

Keighley have had a request for a postponement of their tie at Halifax turned down by the League's board of directors. The club is suffering from a flu epidemic and the prospect of taking such a sickly squad to Thrum Hall takes the gloss off the occasion for Keighley's former Halifax coach, Peter Roe, and six players who have previously played for the opposition.

There is a significant reunion, too, at Leigh, with the return of Huddersfield's manager, Alex Murphy, to the club he coached four times. This must be the best chance of an upset. Leigh will be without their on-loan centre, Mark Sarsfield. He has been suspended for six matches after being sent off against Hull KR last week.

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