Rugby League: Russell set to walk tall for Giants

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The Independent Online
HUDDERSFIELD HAVE their captain, Danny Russell, back in action for the match tomorrow that could be crucial in their fight for Super League survival.

Russell, their hooker and on-field tactician, has been out for three months with a broken ankle but returns for the game with Halifax that their coach, Malcolm Reilly, has identified as a "must win" match.

"There was a fear when I was hurt that I could miss the rest of the season, so to come back three matches before the end has given me a massive lift," Russell said.

Huddersfield also have the South Sydney back-rower, Troy Slattery, and Mark Sibson, the full-back on loan from Bramley, available to make their first appearances while Halifax give a debut to Slattery's former team- mate, Andrew Donemann.

If Huddersfield win, Hull must perform the unlikely feat of beating the Super League leaders, Bradford, if they are not to slip back into the relegation mire. Craig Murdock will play for Hull despite a cut ear, while Bradford - their lead over St Helens now cut to three points - are close to full strength.

Warrington will finally know that their play-off hopes are dead if they do not beat Castleford tomorrow night, and Sheffield have players trying to secure new contracts when they meet London tonight.

Two of their colleagues have already been given free transfers, which adds spice to an otherwise meaningless mid-table contest. The Broncos, not for the first time, have no room for Martin Offiah or Shaun Edwards.

St Helens, who meet Gateshead on Monday lunchtime, could have Kevin Iro fit but are waiting for work permits for their new recruits, Des Clark and Sean Hoppe.

Featherstone Rovers and Hull KR, two former powers in the game from the not-too-distant past, contest the one remaining place in the Northern Ford Premiership play-offs tomorrow afternoon.

Featherstone have revived since the arrival of their new coach, Peter Roe, while Hull KR, the early season pace setters, have lost momentum alarmingly and will miss out should Featherstone win.

Rovers hope to double their modest average gate of 1,600 for the season for this match. "If they won't turn out for this, what will they turn out for?" asked their chairman, Richard Wright.

Dewsbury will qualify in first place provided they avoid defeat by Bramley. If that happens, any or all of Hunslet, Widnes and Leigh could overtake them.

It makes for a gripping finale to the last season under this format. Not only is the Premiership to make a December start next season but it is also planning to revert to a top-eight play-off system. It has been all of two years under the current set-up and is surely time for a change.

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