Rugby League: Offiah sets fresh target

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FOR EDDIE McDONNELL, the sight of Martin Offiah signing on the dotted line yesterday was a case of deja vu. McDonnell, now a director of Salford, was the scout who unearthed Offiah for Widnes in 1987.

"I saw him on TV and phoned Doug Laughton to get out of the bath and have a look at him," recalled McDonnell as Offiah joined the Reds. He got his phone number from Rosslyn Park by pretending to be a rugby union journalist writing an article on up-and-coming wingers. The rest is history.

"I never had any doubt how good he would be. He had such pace, such elusive body movement - although he took six games to score his first try."

Since then, Offiah has scored more than 450 for Widnes, Wigan and London and McDonnell believes that it is the lure of becoming only the third man to top 500 that has persuaded him to extend his career.

"Opposing defences might have something to say about that," Offiah said. "But I've had success at every club I've been at and Salford have an exciting back line."

John Harvey, the Salford coach, has also signed players with pace in Nick Pinkney and the Australians Justin Webber and Kris Tassell. "Whoever is on the wings will get plenty of ball," he promised.

If that pledge holds good, Offiah could yet make an international comeback in next year's World Cup. "Andy Goodway told me I was too old and then picked Paul Sterling, who is older than me," Offiah said. "I would be available, but it will be up to the incumbent coach."

The final of the World Cup will be at Old Trafford on 25 November, it was confirmed yesterday, exactly a year ahead of the event. The 16 nations involved will be competing for the original World Cup trophy, first presented in 1954, but lost for 20 years before being found in a ditch in Bradford in 1990.

There will be cut-price tickets available for all matches, including the final, with the cheapest adult seats at pounds 10 and concessions at pounds 5.

"We don't want to stop anyone going," said the tournament's marketing director, Neil Coupland. "We don't want it to be an exclusive event."

Shaun McRae, the coach of Gateshead before their move to Hull, has agreed a contract extension that will keep him at the new club until 2001. More than 300 fans have attended a public meeting called to try to keep professional rugby league in Gateshead.

Premiership clubs are to decide today whether the new Sheffield club is to be allowed into the competition in place of Bramley.

The New Zealand Test coach, Frank Endacott, is emerging as the favourite for the vacant coaching job at Wigan.