Rugby League: Wigan in salvage operation

Dave Hadfield says the end is nigh for Britain's beleaguered rugby league clubs
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The Independent Online
British clubs this weekend have their last chance in this phase of the competition to salvage something from the wreckage of the World Club Championship - with attention focused on Wigan's Australian campaign.

The club made a brave stand this week by sending Neil Cowie home in disgrace after he missed a training session. It would be a surprise if their anger did not extend to putting him on the transfer list next week. For now, his absence limits the selection possibilities at Canberra tomorrow.

Terry O'Connor, apparently none the worse for being pummelled around the head by Brisbane's Gorden Tallis last Monday, will start in place of Cowie while the out-of-sorts Henry Paul moves from full-back to stand- off for the injured Nigel Wright, with Paul Koloi making his full debut. Wigan face a formidable task against a side which has overflowed with tries and, in Ken Nagas, Brett Mullins and Laurie Daley, has the most devastating attackers in the competition. Wigan will have to be at their best to prevent a bad week getting worse.

Nobody in Australia expects Halifax, heavily beaten in their two matches so far, to raise their game against Brisbane. Betting coupons are offering the British side a record 49.5-point lead - and there are still few takers.

Oldham became the latest side to be heavily beaten in Australia, with Joe Faimalo, Francis Maloney and Paul Topping scoring their tries in a 42-14 defeat at Adelaide yesterday.

Closer to home, St Helens have their chance to ease the disappointment of their performances when they face Penrith tomorrow. They could have Derek McVey, Apollo Perelini and Andy Northey fit but are less hopeful about Alan Hunte and Paul Newlove.

Before that, two European clubs wind up their commitments today. Andy Gregory, the Salford coach, has promised a complete change of approach and "no-frills" rugby against North Queensland. Whether that will make any difference is another matter entirely.

Paris are at home to Perth, who will have been sternly treated this week by their coach, Dean Lance. He was infuriated by their lax approach in defeat at Sheffield and warned: "Unless we get our heads out of the clouds, Paris will do the same to us."

On Monday, the London Broncos have some reason to believe that they can upset Canterbury, who have not always been impressive in the competition. The London coach, Tony Currie, hope to have Shaun Edwards back after a hamstring injury.

To wrap up what has been a salutory couple of weeks for British clubs, Warrington host Auckland on Monday night. This trip has been a rehabilitation exercise for Auckland, with wins over St Helens and Bradford working wonders for their credibility and self-confidence.

This last match before the return of domestic concerns for three weeks brings together the Swann brothers. Willie will be at hooker for Warrington, having been sacked and recalled during a chequered season, while Anthony will return at centre for the Warriors after serving a one-match suspension.

Auckland will be without Syd Eru, who has failed in his appeal against a one-game ban, with Mark Horo his likely stand-in at hooker.

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