Rugby League: Wigan's travel plans unclear

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

WIGAN will travel to Yorkshire for the next stage of their attempt to win a sixth successive Challenge Cup, but they will not know until tomorrow night whether it will be to play the First Division side, Halifax or Batley, of the Third Division.

Fog at Thrum Hall prevented the game taking place on Sunday, but Halifax will be favourites when the game does go ahead. A Batley win would mean Wigan visiting Mount Pleasant for the second time in the Cup. They beat Dewsbury, who are playing there while they wait for a new ground to be completed, in the first round.

The highlight of the draw takes Castleford, last year's beaten finalists, to Leeds, candidates in many minds to start to justify their expensive rebuilding by reaching Wembley.

Widnes went into two important meetings last night - one with their players to discuss reduced contracts and one with their members to explore becoming a limited company - knowing that they have a quarter-final at Hull Kingston Rovers which should be within their capabilities. Oldham, the only Second Division side in the draw and the only one never to have been to Wembley, have a difficult but not impossible task at home to Bradford Northern.

David Mycoe, the Sheffield Eagles centre who broke his ankle in the Challenge Cup defeat by Widnes on Sunday, has been replaced in the Great Britain Under-21 squad for the match against France at Rochdale tomorrow by Gareth Stephens, of Leeds. Kevin Ward, who dislocated his thumb in St Helens' loss to Wigan on Saturday, may also have broken it and is expected to miss several matches, starting with tomorrow night's First Division game at Widnes.

Simon Baldwin, Leigh's second row forward, has been called into tonight's Academy squad to play France at Wigan, in place of Adrian Flynn, of Wakefield, who has a broken hand.

Ross Strudwick, who resigned as general manager of London Crusaders at the weekend, is to have talks with the Rugby League about continuing in his role developing the game in the capital. The Australian has stepped aside at Crusaders to give the club's new owners, Britannic Shipping, a clean slate upon which to map out their future. 'It was part of my job to bring investment into the club,' Strudwick said. 'Now that I have, I have effectively put myself out of a job, but I have no regrets.'

He will stay with the club during the transitional phase, but the long-term strategy for the club involves a high-profile English player-coach. 'They need someone like Andy Gregory,' Strudwick said.

The Australian referee, Graham Annesley, has been appointed for the Tests between Great Britain and France in Carcassonne in March and at Headingley in April.

SILK CUT CHALLENGE CUP Quarter-final draw: Hull Kingston Rovers v Widnes; Halifax or Batley v Wigan; Oldham v Bradford Northern; Leeds v Castleford. (Ties to be played on 27 and 28 February).