New Zealand must find a new captain for their British tour later this month, after Nathan Cayless withdrew.
The Parramatta forward, already ruled out of the Test against Australia on 12 October by suspension, is to have knee surgery and will be out for 12 weeks. It was feared that delaying the operation until after the tour in December could cause long-term damage.
The New Zealand Warriors' scrum-half, Stacey Jones, who has led his club into Sunday's National Rugby League Grand Final, is the obvious replacement, but the Kiwi coach, Gary Freeman, also has a highly-regarded former Test captain in his squad in Stephen Kearney.
Robbie Paul, who has captained Bradford very successfully, could be another candidate, but he will not link up with the rest of the squad until they reach this country, which is likely to militate against him.
Paul was not talking up his chances of the job yesterday, but instead those of the Bulls against St Helens in their Super League play-off on Saturday.
"If we get it right, I think we're impossible to beat," he said. "Brian Noble [the Bradford coach] hates it when I start saying things like that, but it's one of the beliefs I have in this team. When we're on our game, we're just too good for other teams."
That drew a dismissive response from Ian Millward, the Saints' coach. "There's a lot of smokescreens, with Brian saying they're underdogs and Robbie saying they're unbeatable. Maybe they should get together and get their story right."
Saints could be at full strength for the first time since the Challenge Cup final in April, with Chris Joynt, Keiron Cunningham, Tommy Martyn and Sean Long all expected to play.
Batley are to appeal against the two-match ban that rules out their Fijian forward, Joe Naidole, for Sunday's Northern Ford Premiership play-off at Leigh, which could put them into the Grand Final. Naidole was found guilty of using his elbow after being reported during the game at Featherstone.
Tony Barrow has resigned as chief executive of Swinton after 10 years at the club. "I can't do anything else for the club," he said. "It's a couple of months since I've had a pay-day and I can't keep going to work for nothing." Barrow, their coach before becoming chief executive, organised the club's move back to its home town this year but decided to quit when a prospective new major shareholder pulled out.
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