Rugby League: Wigan pressed in trial of strength

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The Independent Online
AFTER strong arm-twisting by the Rugby League, Wigan are now poised to send their strongest available side to the World Sevens in Sydney in a fortnight.

Yesterday they were under pressure on two fronts, with the League saying Wigan could not send the team of reserves they named on Wednesday and the Australian organisers announcing that the club's invitation for the event had been withdrawn.

The League later announced that it had cancelled permission for Wigan to rearrange a game against Bradford for 7 February, when the Sevens will be in full swing.

Wigan are appealing against that decision this afternoon. If they fail, their only commitment that weekend will be the Sevens, to which, it seems, they will be re- admitted if they name a full- strength squad.

Only two of the players originally selected for Sydney are in Wigan's squad for the Regal Trophy final against Bradford tomorrow. Jason Robinson has regained his place on the right wing, while Ian Gildart will play at prop if Andy Platt does not recover from a hand injury.

Malcolm Reilly, the Great Britain coach, takes a club side into a game for the first time since resigning as coach at Leeds in September 1989 when his new team, Halifax, visit the First Division leaders, St Helens, tonight.

Reilly could hardly have picked a tougher reintroduction to the club scene. 'Saints are on a high at the moment and playing with a lot of confidence,' he said. 'They have international players all over the park, and match-winners at that.'

The St Helens side is full of players Reilly has selected for Great Britain teams and squads: David Lyon, Alan Hunte, Gary Connolly, Paul Loughlin, Kevin Ward, Bernard Dwyer and Sonny Nickle.

But perhaps his major worry is the St Helens' stand-off, Tea Ropati, who has been the form player of the season so far. Reilly's relief was unmistakeable when New Zealand only selected him as a substitute for last summer's Test series against Great Britain. They are unlikely to repeat the mistake in the return series in England this autumn.

'He's as good as anything I've seen going around for a long time,' Reilly said. 'He has great strength and speed and the way he comes on to Shane Cooper's passes gives Saints their direction.'

Saints will go six points clear of Wigan at the top-of-the-table if they win, although they will have played three more games. Halifax's former St Helens' players, Paul Bishop and John Fieldhouse, face fitness tests before Reilly can finalise his team.

Chorley have sacked their coach, John Taylor, after 16 months in the job.

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