Rugby League: The new convertible Bentley

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When Halifax line up to face Keighley in their Silk Cut Challenge Cup fifth-round tie this afternoon, a familiar face will be missing. John Bentley is otherwise engaged, still playing rugby union with Newcastle and named last week in the preliminary squad for the Lions' tour of South Africa.

Bentley is part of a strong league influence in Fran Cotton's selection - even Alan Tait, who could not make Leeds' first team last season, is there. But Bentley is the only one who is still a league player, registered with Halifax and merely on loan to Newcastle.

"He is still a Halifax player and is due back with us whenever his commitments with Newcastle are over," says the club's coach, Steve Simms.

Money talks, however. Halifax admit that the rent they collected from Sir John Hall came in very useful - and compared rather favourably with Bentley's market value if he had been transferred permanently within league.

"It was only that financial aspect that made us agree to it," said Simms. "But they would have to come up with a really good payment for us to allow him to tour with the Lions. John hasn't spoken to us about it, but I imagine he knows the situation."

In the meantime, Halifax will go into today's tie with the Western Samoan Fereti Tuilagi and the new Australian recruit David Bouveng on the wings. Kelvin Skerrett is on the bench hoping to make his debut for the club, knowing that he only has until the end of March to convince them that he is worth offering a permanent contract.

Simms watched the financially-stricken Keighley in a friendly against Bradford and their fourth-round tie against Workington and came away impressed by the determination instilled in them by their new player-coach, Daryl Powell.

"They are going to come here with nothing to lose, but we should be a little too strong for them," Simms said.

Other first division sides with little to lose against Super League opposition today include Hull, who are at the cup-holders, St Helens. Hull have acquired two capable new Australian half-backs in Peter Wheeler and Gary Lester. Saints will be without the suspended Bobbie Goulding, with young Lee Briers standing in.

The best-balanced tie is at Warrington, where Sheffield Eagles are the visitors, whilst a completely rebuilt Paris St Germain will be an unknown quantity at Salford.

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