Rugby League: Reprimand for Bloem

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The Independent Online
Jamie Bloem, Doncaster's South African full-back already suspended for two years for taking anabolic steroids, has been reprimanded but has escaped an extra ban for bringing the game into disrepute.

Bloem was hauled up again in front of a League sub-committee over a newspaper article in which he claimed that drug-taking was rife, with at least a dozen unnamed players taking steroids, and that the League was "turning a blind eye." At the hearing yesterday, Bloem described those comments as untrue and apologised for them.

Bloem has also been banned for six months by the Yorkshire Amateur League after playing under an assumed name for Woodlands A against Garforth. Both clubs have been fined.

The England coach, Ellery Hanley, has struck a balance between returning to the tried and tested and continuing to experiment with his squad for the match against France in Gateshead next Wednesday.

Denis Betts, Lee Jackson and Chris Joynt are called up after missing last week's defeat by Wales because of the World Sevens, whilst Shaun Edwards, Bobby Goulding and Martin Offiah are back after injury.

There are three newcomers, however, including the Leeds winger, Francis Cummins, and Keighley's prolific try-scorer, the centre Nick Pinkney.

Nigel Wright, who was in an England squad in 1992 but did not play, is also named. Wright's career has revived since returning to his original club, Wakefield, on loan from Wigan.

Four players who made their international debuts in Cardiff - Ikram Butt, Anthony Farrell, Richard Gay and Harvey Howard - retain their places in the squad, but Paul Newlove, Jason Robinson and Garry Schofield were not considered because of injury.

The saga of Offiah's withdrawal from the Sevens and recovery to play for Wigan last weekend might not be over. Lindsay returned from the event in Sydney yesterday saying that he was "surprised to find that Offiah had played." Even if the letter of the law had been obeyed, Lindsay said, there would be a full investigation.

Amid this flurry of announcements from the League came the news, predicted for some time, that Harry Gration is leaving his job there as public affairs executive after a year to return to broadcasting.

ENGLAND SQUAD (v France, European Championship, Gateshead, 15 February): D Betts (Wigan), I Butt (Featherstone), M Cassidy (Wigan), P Clarke, G Connolly (both Wigan), F Cummins (Leeds), S Edwards (Wigan), A Farrell (Sheffield), R Gay (Hull), B Goulding (St Helens), H Howard (Leeds), L Jackson (Sheffield), C Joynt (St Helens), S McCurrie (Widnes), S McNamara (Hull), S Nickle (St Helens), M Offiah (Wigan), N Pinkney (Keighley), D Powell (Sheffield), N Wright (Wakefield).