RUGBY LEAGUE: Wigan have six appeal

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The Independent Online
RUGBY LEAGUE

BY DAVE HADFIELD

The Stones Bitter Championship trophy is waiting for Britain's one-team super league at Central Park this week.

Defeat for Leeds at Warrington last night and victory over Bradford Northern tomorrow night would give Wigan their sixth successive title. It is, fittingly, at the same venue today that the game's chairmen will meet to discuss the formation of a super league and a switch to summer rugby.

As far as winter rugby is concerned, Wigan's supremacy is so overwhelming that it is not a question of whether they make sure of the prize, but when.

For the visit of the side that pushed them hardest last season, Wigan have Va'aiga Tuigamala, Frano Botica, Shaun Edwards, Denis Betts and Phil Clarke back after being rested against Doncaster in midweek. Martin Offiah could also return after a three-match absence with a thigh muscle strain, but Jason Robinson is injured and Kelvin Skerrett is missing because of a three-match suspension.

Featherstone Rovers, away to Halifax, whose coach, Steve Simms, has signed a new, two-year contract, will be without their forwards, Steve Molloy and Joe Naidole, suspended for one match and three matches respectively after being reported for incidents in their Challenge Cup semi-final against Leeds. Naidole, along with Warrington's Bruce McGuire, failed with appeals against their bans yesterday. McGuire has been suspended for two matches for punching.

Wakefield Trinity and Widnes, who meet at Belle Vue, will be glancing anxiously over their shoulders at the late progress of Hull, whose three wins in their last four matches have given them some hope of avoiding relegation. In any event, one of the game's many conundrums at the moment is the speculation that promotion and relegation at the end of this season might not be the simple two-up, two-down affair that was anticipated. The goalposts have been moved in mid-season before, and may be again.

Keighley and Batley can make virtually certain of finishing as the Second Division's top two. Keighley will unveil their record signing, Daryl Powell, at home to Swinton, while Batley are at Hull KR.

n The New Zealand Rugby League has signed a $2m (£1.25m) deal with Rupert Murdoch, raising the possibility of a three-cornered State of Origin series with Queensland and New South Wales to run alongside Murdoch's breakaway Star League. Clubs which have signed up with the new organisation are urging a compromise, with the Australian Rugby League running the new competition, but the ARL is planning a court confrontation with Murdoch.

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