Rugby League: Wigan put their faith in Jones

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The Independent Online
PHIL JONES, plucked from Lancashire Lynx last month, will make his Wigan debut at Halifax tonight. The 21-year-old stand-off is among the substitutes for the injury-hit Super League title-holders at The Shay after less than one full game in the reserves.

Jones injured his ankle on his second-team debut, but has recovered and is given his senior opportunity by the absence of Wigan's latest casualties, Paul Johnson and Simon Haughton. Rob Ball starts in the second row in place of Haughton, while Wes Davies continues at full-back, but Jones' rapid elevation is the most startling development.

Jones' one-time team-mate at the Hindley junior club, Jon Clarke, is back in training with Wigan after being released from a young offenders' institution. The Great Britain Academy hooker was sentenced to 18 months' detention, reduced to six, for assault and has now been freed early - albeit with an electronic tag.

Halifax expect to have the former Wigan prop Kelvin Skerrett back after a broken arm for a match that will be an early test for their belief that they have put recent financial wrangles behind them.

The Leeds veteran, Daryl Powell, gets a chance to set aside any doubts about his fitness for the Challenge Cup final when he makes his return after a foot injury in tonight's meeting with Hull.

At the other end of the scale, 18-year-old Chris Chapman, a centre or winger who has impressed in the Alliance team, is drafted in for his first-team debut in a match their coach Graham Murray hopes will see his side put any thoughts of Wembley out of their minds after a sub-standard performance at Sheffield.

"We have put last week's game behind us," said Murray. "We won't dwell on it and we will start playing football like we know we can."

Stuart Cummings, who missed out narrowly to Russell Smith for the appointment to referee at Wembley, is to take charge of the Test between Australia and New Zealand next Friday, The two countries have had a change of heart after originally deciding to put an Australian in charge.

"I'm delighted that they have not pursued their original proposal of not having a neutral referee," said the RFL's director of referees, Greg McCallum. "Stuart has been one of the most consistent performers in the world for several years and will undoubtedly do a superb job in the ANZAC Test."