Great Britain will not face their tormentor, Andrew Johns, in this autumn's Ashes series after the Australian scrum-half and captain was ruled out for the rest of the year.
Johns has a bulging disc in his neck and must wear a brace for six weeks before surgeons decide whether to operate. He will leave a big gap in even a side as strong as the Kangaroos, especially as his natural understudy, Brett Kimmorley, is also out for the season.
"It's bittersweet for me," the Great Britain coach, David Waite, said. "I've known Andrew for a long time and I've enjoyed working with him at his club and coaching against him. When the best player in the world isn't going to be here it's disappointing for the fans, but there are players like Craig Wing, Brent Sherwin and Craig Gower capable of stepping in."
Waite plans to draft a couple of new players into his squad within the next week, with the St Helens full-back, Paul Wellens, almost certain to be one of them.
The Saints prop Darren Britt has announced his retirement after fracturing his eye socket against Hull last weekend. Britt will stay at the club in a coaching capacity until November.
One player Saints could have seen as a replacement, Hull's Craig Greenhill, who is being released at the end of the season because of their import quota, has instead joined Castleford on a one-year contract.
London have re-signed their prolific try-scorer Dennis Moran for another three years and are to sign the front-rower Steve Trindall from Wests-Tigers in Australia.
Saints, who have approached Featherstone about their highly rated young stand-off Richard Whiting, expect to have 10 first-teamers missing with injury for tonight's match against Castleford.
Wigan have abandoned their hopes of having Adrian Lam fit to return after an ankle injury for their game at Leeds. Luke Robinson continues at scrum-half for Mike Gregory's biggest test since he took over as caretaker coach.
One major boost is that Kris Radlinski has been given the all-clear after his long absence with a wrist injury, although he will not be considered tonight.
Halifax will be definitely relegated if they lose to Huddersfield this evening.
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