Rugby League: Watson back on the case for Bradford Northern

Click to follow
The Independent Online
TWO of New Zealand's finest players, David Watson and Kevin Iro, make delayed debuts for their new English clubs in tomorrow's two outstanding matches.

Watson will make his first appearance for Bradford Northern against St Helens at full-back, having served a three-month suspension after testing positive for cannabis while playing for Halifax last season.

The Bradford coach, Peter Fox, has been delighted by the way Watson has responded to being offered another chance. 'I have been very pleased with his attitude,' he said. 'He has done very well in training during the time he has been banned and will add extra sharpness to our team.'

Watson, normally a stand-off or centre, replaces Roger Simpson, who is recovering from minor knee surgery.

'Coming in at full-back will ease him into the side,' said Fox, who will still be without Brimah Kebbie and, possibly, David Hobbs. Playing full-back against a side with the attacking prowess of St Helens is not the gentlest reintroduction to English rugby league, however. 'I rate Saints right up there with Wigan,' said Fox said. 'The two of them will fight it out for the championship.'

Saints are sufficiently concerned about Northern, and particularly the kicking skills of Deryck Fox, to make a change at full-back. The Great Britain winger, Alan Hunte, brings his pace to the role, with Phil Veivers dropping to substitute. Gary Connolly is still struggling with the ankle injury that forced him off at half-time at Wembley, but Kevin Ward returns after being rested for the Regal Trophy tie against Huddersfield in midweek.

Kevin Iro's debut for Leeds has been held up by an ankle injury suffered in his last match for Manly. He now lines up against Widnes in a side which, at long last, looks like the one envisaged by the Leeds coach, Doug Laughton, when he embarked on his second bout of serious shopping this summer.

Iro comes in at centre, alongside Craig Innes, with Jim Fallon switching from left to right wing to partner him. Carl Gibson has been reduced to substitute duties, alongside Paul Dixon.

Another Leeds Kiwi, Morvin Edwards, has been suspended for two matches after being sent off for a high tackle at Wakefield. He will be free to find a new club when he has served his ban, because Leeds have dropped him from their overseas quota to make way for Iro.

Widnes make an interesting positional switch, with Jonathan Davies moving to centre and Stuart Spruce to full-back. David Hulme is preferred to Les Holliday and Steve McCurrie at loose forward.

Halifax, who have a fitness doubt over Paul Bishop, include their two new signings in the squad to play Wakefield. Their coach, Roger Millward, will decide whether the Lions tourist, Graham Hallas, and the Queensland second row, Mike McLean, will start the match or be eased in as substitutes.