Wright returns to expectant Wigan

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The Independent Online
RUGBY LEAGUE

BY DAVE HADFIELD

Wigan, who tomorrow launch their bid for the final element in a clean sweep of the season's major trophies, are already planning ahead by reclaiming their stand-off, Nigel Wright, from Wakefield Trinity.

Wright, signed by Wigan from Wakefield almost two years ago in a £140,000 deal that was a world record for a teenager, failed to establish a regular place in the first team last season and has been allowed to spend most of this period back on loan at his old club.

The last chance of him returning to Wakefield permanently disappeared last week, however, when new Super League plans left Wakefield out of the top division.

Wright has been linked with a number of other clubs, including St Helens and Castleford, who will lose their stand-off, Tony Kemp, to Leeds next season, but Wigan have now moved to sign Wright on a new, two-and-a-half year contract, clearly showing that they still see him as part of their plans.

Back at his original club, Wright has shown all the class that persuaded Wigan to buy him in the first place. With Frano Botica's future uncertain - Wigan, Auckland and the Australian Rugby League are all arguing over him - there is a chance for him to make his mark at last.

Although the brilliant Henry Paul can play stand-off as well as full- back and Wigan have the equally exciting Sean Long waiting in the wings, Wright is the ideal replacement for Botica.

Wigan begin their defence of the Premiership with a first-round tie at home with Sheffield Eagles. Either Kris Radlinski or Barrie-Jon Mather, whose new Wigan contract is still the subject of some dispute, will replace Va'aiga Tuigamala at centre, while, with Mick Cassidy out with post-Wembley concussion and Phil Clarke doubtful, Scott Quinnell and Terry O'Connor are added to the squad.

Kemp will be playing his last match for Castleford if they lose to Warrington. Conversely, Allan Bateman, who has signed a two-year deal with Cronulla, will be making his final appearance if Warrington bow out. Jonathan Davies, another Australian signing, but not until his contract with Warrington expires in two years' time, returns to their side after a hamstring injury.

St Helens, whose international backs Alan Hunte and Scott Gibbs will not now be joining the Australian club Manly for the summer, are at home to Halifax, who have not won at Knowsley Road for 11 years.

The game's warring factions in Australia will next week discuss a peace plan that would comprise a Super League playing alongside a Sydney-based competition for the remaining Winfield Cup clubs.

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