Rugby League: Saints are short of fitness: Troubled team wake up to pedal power but midweek thrashing at the hands of Salford still leaves new coach searching for the road back

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The Independent Online
AFTER two matches in charge, the new St Helens coach, Eric Hughes, believes he has identified several problem areas. Putting them right will not be as easy, writes Dave Hadfield.

The way Saints faded in midweek against a Salford side that should, in theory, have been drained after a huge effort against Wigan was a worrying sign. 'The overall standard of fitness is not what it should be,' said Hughes, whose own fitness was legendary during his playing career.

Hughes plans to increase the workload gradually. Last Sunday, for instance, he ordered a bike ride to Southport, but the 34-2 thrashing at Salford suggests that it is going to be some time before Saints are back on the right road.

The other obvious problem is injuries, with Adam Fogerty, Anthony Sullivan and Shane Cooper added to an already lengthy list of absentees for tomorrow's game against Warrington. There is no money to sign replacements, so there is no alternative to promoting young players ahead of schedule. Andy Haigh and Steve Prescott will be an inexperienced combination on the wings and Sean Casey will stand in at loose forward.

The Warrington coach, Brian Johnson, has fewer worries after an impressive win over Leeds. Gary Chambers could return in place of the injured Craig Teitzel and Paul Darbyshire will start instead of Dave Elliott.

It is a vital day at the bottom of the First Division, with the last-placed Leigh meeting the side above them, Wakefield, and the next two clubs, Oldham and Hull Kingston Rovers, also in oppostion.

Tim Street misses Hull's match against Castleford after incurring a two-game ban for his sending-off at Halifax last week. Simon Irving, dismissed in Leeds' match at Warrington, has received the same punishment.

Several of the weaker Second Division sides could come under pressure from amateur opposition in the third round of the Silk Cut Challenge Cup tomorrow. Experience and home advantage should see most of them through, but it would be no major shock if Highfield became the first professional club since Beverley beat Ebbw Vale in 1909 to be knocked out by amateurs when Saddleworth visit.

The Student Rugby League is to send a representative side to the game's newest outpost, Morocco, in March.

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