Rugby League: Saints to punish sinning pair

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ST HELENS will tonight punish at least two of their players for breaching club discipline by being seen in a night-club on Thursday - immediately after the squad had been warned about its public image following two crucial defeats.

Two players named yesterday in the Great Britain squad to play France, Gary Connolly and Sonny Nickle, both face fines as a result of the incident, even though Saints' chairman, Eric Latham, insists that their sins are toward the less serious end of the scale.

'There has undoubtedly been a breach of the very tight club rules governing where players should be seen and at what time of the day,' Latham said. 'But it is a very mild breach and has been blown up out of all proportion.

'This is the sort of thing that happens at every club and it is just unfortunate that it has become public at St Helens. Having said that, rules have been broken and action will be taken.'

Connolly and Nickle were originally left out of the side for Sunday's game at Hull - Saints' third successive defeat - but were reinstated because of a flu epidemic. A third player, Alan Hunte, was publicly exonerated by the Saints coach, Mike McClennan, after he was left out because of injury, rather than for disciplinary reasons.

The two culprits on the carpet at Saints' regular meeting of the board of directors tonight have been guilty of the sort of timing which, if repeated on the rugby field, would swiftly have them back among the amateurs.

The players were warned at a meeting on Thursday to make sure that their behaviour was whiter than white at a time when the town, obsessed as ever with its club's fortunes, was looking for explanations for the side's loss of form.

Wigan, who knocked Saints out of the Challenge Cup 10 days ago and have now overhauled them in the league, have ruled out any return to Central Park by their former coach, Graham Lowe.

Lowe, in precarious health since suffering a brain haemorrhage two years ago, has resigned as coach of Manly, the Australian club he joined in 1989 after three highly successful seasons with Wigan.

Wigan need a coach to replace the even more successful John Monie at the end of this season, but his health problems will rule out Lowe, who has also coached Brisbane Norths, New Zealand and Queensland with distinction.

'Much as we like Graham and are grateful for all his work here, there are no thoughts of him returning to Wigan,' the club's chairman, Jack Robinson, said. 'If anything, this is an even more stressful job than Manly. He had a police guard on his door here when he fell out with Andy Gregory and I don't think anything like that has happened to him in Australia.'