Widnes make their move for Great Britain pair

Dave Hadfield
Friday 29 November 2002 01:00

Widnes have signed one of Leeds' cast-offs, Ryan Sheridan, and will also recruit Andy Hay, if they can fit him within their salary cap.

The Great Britain internationals, among the players unwanted at Headingley, both negotiated releases this week, making them free agents.

Sheridan has agreed a two-year contract, despite interest from Huddersfield and Hull, and becomes the club's second new scrum-half, alongside his former Sheffield team-mate, Dean Lawford, who has been signed from Batley.

"Ryan has tremendous experience at the highest level and we still think of him as a Great Britain player," the Widnes coach, Neil Kelly, said. "We were a very enthusiastic side last season, but sometimes we lacked a bit of quality.

"Ryan brings that and gives us more competition for places. Andy Hay is one of the best wide-running forwards in the game and he is keen to come here as well."

Widnes have been refused permission by the Rugby League to play the Sydney Roosters on 6 February, as a warm-up for the Australians' World Club Challenge against St Helens eight days later. Widnes will be in the Challenge Cup on the weekend of 8-9 February, but Kelly said: "We still wanted to play the Roosters and it's a shame we're not being allowed to do so."

Professional clubs have agreed to close a loophole that allows many of them to recruit extra overseas players. From next season, no more players will qualify for an exemption from the import quota through the five-year residency rule.

The measure is not retrospective and players now coming to the end of their fifth year will be unaffected, as will players with EU passports.

"We cannot do anything about that, but we can change the aspects we do control," the RFL's director of finance, Nigel Wood, said. "The vast majority of people believe it would be helpful to provide more first-team opportunities for young British players."

The RL Council has also agreed to reduce the overseas quota from five per club in Super League to four in 2004 and three the following season.

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