Wigan seven to stay in Britain

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The Independent Online
Wigan have announced that seven of their squad have, with the help of Rupert Murdoch's money, decided in favour of Britain and the Super League rather than accept offers from the Australian Rugby League, which is continuing to fight Murdoch's takeover attempt.

Va'aiga Tuigamala, Henry Paul and Mick Cassidy are all members of the side to play Leeds at Wembley on Saturday and they are joined by Scott Quinnell, Terry O'Connor, Simon Haughton and Craig Murdock in pledging their future to the Super League. Also safely gathered in are the Welshmen Scott Gibbs, of St Helens, and Allan Bateman, of Warrington.

That still leaves doubts over the intentions of known ARL targets such as Jason Robinson, Martin Hall, Gary Connolly and Shaun Edwards at Wigan, Ellery Hanley and Alan Tait at Leeds, Widnes's John Devereux and Warrington's Iestyn Harris.

Wigan's loose-forward, Phil Clarke, has reiterated his commitment to the ARL, despite being named in yesterday's House of Commons debate as a player whose international career could be threatened by the split.

"When I signed for Eastern Suburbs earlier this season I made a commitment to the ARL and I can't wait to get there," he said.

The ARL chairman, Ken Arthurson, said that the organisation could announce a fresh batch of signings as early as today. Arthurson, in London for the meeting of the game's International Board, also said that a number of English clubs - including some destined for Super League status - had contacted him to express their reservations about the venture.

"I think they are gradually beginning to regret being involved," he said. "They have been expressing their concerns and looking for guidance."

Wigan are still delaying a final decision on whether Robinson has recovered sufficiently from a broken bone in his foot to take his place at Wembley for the Silk Cut Challenge Cup final on Saturday.

Setting aside the long-term future of Hanley and Tait, Leeds have no problems going into the match. Their coach, Doug Laughton, yesterday named a full-strength side, with the luxury of two powerful and experienced forwards on the bench in George Mann and Neil Harmon.

The British Amateur Rugby League Association has announced that it will not be following the lead of the professionals in switching to a summer season. BARLA has consulted its member leagues, but fears about the availability of pitches and injuries on hard grounds have persuaded it to stick to winter rugby.

LEEDS (v Wigan, Silk Cut Challenge Cup final, Wembley, Saturday): Tait; Fallon, Iro, Innes, Cummins; Schofield, Holroyd; Howard, Lowes, Faimalo, Mercer, Eyres, Hanley. Substitutes: Mann, Harmon.