RUGBY LEAGUE: Wigan offer early chance for Saints' new arrivals to shine

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The Independent Online
ELLERY HANLEY will look to his new arrivals to fill the gaps left by injuries to the shining lights of the the Grand Final in a match he would rather not be playing. "I personally wouldn't have played this particular game," the St Helens coach of said of his side's trip trip to Wigan on Boxing Day. "A number of players will be missing from the game because they had close-season operations and need time to recuperate."

Those who will miss the match at the JJB stadium include Kieron Cunningham, Anthony Sullivan, Paul Newlove, Kevin Iro and Vila Matautia. "But that will provide opportunities for other players to show what they can do," Hanley said.

Those other players will include Bryan Henare, the former Auckland Warriors second rower, who arrived at Knowsley Road yesterday, and Darrell Trindall, the South Sydney scrum-half, who flies in today.

Henare said that he was hoping to restart a career interrupted by a serious knee injury almost two years ago that has limited his first-team opportunities since. "It's a fresh start for me and a great opportunity when Ellery got in touch," said Henare, who toured with the Junior Kiwis in 1993 and is still only 25.

St Helens have achieved record season ticket sales in the wake of their Super League title last season and Hanley says that he is confident that his squad for 2000 is stronger.

Wigan are preparing to offer their captain, Andy Farrell, the biggest contract in the club's history to keep him after his current deal expires at the end of next season. Farrell has been the subject of considerable interest from clubs in Australia.

The Rugby League has reported a "dramatic improvement" in on-field behaviour, with a second consecutive decline last season in the number of disciplinary cases. This year 203 cases were heard, down from down 221 in 1998 and 257 in 1997.

The last round of the Silk Cut Challenge Cup before the lowlier professional clubs enter the competition sees all three of the armed services teams in action this weekend. The Royal Navy are in Castleford to play Lock Lane of the National Conference, while the Army host another Yorkshire side, Oulton Raiders, with the RAF at home to Wigan St Judes.

The League is studying the implications of a decision by the sponsors of next year's World Cup, the Lincoln Financial Group, to pull out of the British market.