Rugby League: Saints' Polynesian positives

KEVIN IRO and Apollo Perelini could give Ellery Hanley a Polynesian welcome back to his coaching duties by returning to the St Helens side for tonight's game at Leeds. Iro has been out for the past six games with an ankle injury, while Perelini - whose 30th birthday last week marked the anniversary of the moon-shot he was named after - has missed the last two with a knee strain.

Both players could be fit to make a comeback at Headingley in the first of a series of meetings between sides in and around the top five as competition for play-off places intensifies. "Both will play if there is no reaction after training," said Saints' football executive, Eric Hughes, who was to meet the club's board last night for clarification of his position now that Hanley is back at work.

Hanley's reinstatement from his suspension in time to take Saints to one of his former clubs adds further spice to an encounter that could have a long-term impact on finishing positions. Leeds are second and Saints third, one point behind, going into this game.

Leeds have Terry Newton and Daryl Powell back in a near full strength side, while Richie Blackmore was due to start his first game since Wembley in the reserves last night. The Kiwi Test centre has been out of action with a groin injury, but his coach, Graham Murray, hopes to have him available for the run-in.

"It's like signing an international in mid-season, who will be fresher and hopefully sharper than most players," said Murray.

One of Leeds' most promising young players, Gareth Carvell, has joined Gateshead on loan until the end of the season. The 19-year-old Academy international made his first- team debut last season and is seen as part of the solution to the Thunder's current shortage of a prop. He could even figure in the squad to play at Huddersfield on Sunday.

Gateshead have also made their first full-time signing from their own Academy set-up. Steven Bradley, an 18-year-old second-rower from Wallsend, will join the first-team squad next season. Thanks to the League's development programme on Tyneside, he has played the game from the age of nine.

Andrew Wynyard moves to loose forward in place of the suspended Peter Gill for the London Broncos' game at home to Halifax tonight. Brett Wharton, Glen Air and Anthony Seibold all face fitness tests.

The Sheffield Eagles centre Karl Lovell has lost his appeal against a three-match suspension imposed for a late tackle in last Sunday's 24-6 Super League win at Wakefield.

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