Rugby League: The famous four

Dave Hadfield looks forward to a meeting to savour today
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CONNOISSEURS OF high quality centre play should be at Knowsley Road this afternoon because - injuries permitting - the Super League meeting between St Helens and Warrington presents an opportunity to see four of the very best.

The Saints' coach, Ellery Hanley, remains determined in his refusal to single out any players for praise or blame. But it did not need Hanley to underline the damage that his pairing of Kevin Iro and Paul Newlove did to Castleford on Wednesday night. When the Saints put together that combination of two of the game's most notable "mood" players, the expectation was that they could blow either very hot or very cold. At Cas they were searing.

Iro created two tries in the first few minutes to put the Saints on the road. If his defence was a little lacklustre, the same could not be said for Newlove who, quite apart from scoring two marvellous tries, battered opponents with some of the best tackling of his whole career. The message was clear - when these two hit form together there is very little to stop them.

And yet Warrington come to town this afternoon with what has been so far the best centre partnership in Super League. Alan Hunte has looked very much his old self. He still has his pace, but he is now knowledg- eable and is only going to get better now that he is enjoying his game once more.

Alongside him is the real revelation of the season. Toa Kohe-Love has hardly had a game that has been less than eye-opening. The raw ability has always been there, but he now consistently produces the combination of speed, power and technical sophistication that marks him out as a centre from the very top of the range. His coach, Darryl Van de Velde, is certainly delighted with his development. "He's played outstanding football all season," he said. "The only trouble is that we don't get the ball to him enough."

Kohe-Love has seen enough ball to score 11 tries so far this season - more than either Newlove or Iro, incidentally - and Van de Velde would like to see him in the Great Britain squad, which would, of course, conveniently exempt him from the overseas quota. "He's got an English mother," he said. "So I can't see why he can't play for Great Britain." It is surprising that Andy Goodway has not tried to enlist him for his squad to play Australia and New Zealand, where Kohe-Love was born, this autumn. At 22 the best is yet to come from him, while Hunte, Iro and Newlove are the finished product.

The same is true of the St Helens side as a whole, especially after the way they regrouped and dealt with Castleford in midweek. It was a difficult time for Saints, with the shocking defeat by Wakefield co-inciding with a well-publicised internal dispute between Hanley and the club's football executive, Eric Hughes. It will not be the last bout of tension and drama to be triggered by Hanley's obdurate approach, but while he has Iro and Newlove to do his talking, much that could have been considered intolerable will be forgiven.