Rugby League: Saints call on Hoppe

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The Independent Online
ST HELENS, who can secure second place in Super League tonight, have the New Zealand Test winger Sean Hoppe available for that match and for their play-off effort.

Hoppe, who played in all three Tests against Great Britain last autumn, breaking the Kiwis' try-scoring record in the process, was released by Auckland Warriors but snapped up by Saints after their coach, Ellery Hanley, insisted that they needed reinforcements. They do not come much more experienced than Hoppe, who has now received his work permit and been registered by the Rugby League before today's deadline.

Victory over the entrenched league leaders, Bradford, tonight will give Saints - still without Sean Long - the runners-up spot and a home draw against Leeds in the first round of the play-offs.

The Bradford coach, Matthew Elliott, may not risk Stuart Spruce, Michael Withers or James Lowes and will rest any other players with injury niggles before giving the whole squad a week off.

A Saints defeat would give Leeds, at home to the London Broncos, the chance to claim second spot and home advantage in next week's showdown.

Leeds have Terry Newton back from suspension to start the game and Jamie Mathiou and Marcus St Hilaire returning from injury to take their places on the bench. Leeds need an attendance of just over 11,000 to be able to claim the distinction of the best average crowd in Super League.

Salford will talk to their Australian coach, John Harvey, about the possibility of him remaining with the club next season after tonight's final match at Halifax.