Keiron Cunningham has called on the Rugby Football League to outlaw a well-publicised style of tackling after revealing the St Helens centre Mark Percival will be out for at least three months with a serious knee injury.
Percival, who was carried off during the defeat by Salford, has sustained a medial ligament injury and will be out for a minimum of 12 weeks. The incident was recognised by the RFL’s disciplinary panel on Monday but the contact from the Salford forward Adam Walne on Percival’s leg was judged to be accidental – an interpretation Cunningham himself agreed with.
The St Helens coach would still like to see the style of tackle, which places pressure on an attacker’s legs, banned following a recent season-ending knee injury for the Castleford captain, Michael Shenton, after a tackle from the Hull KR hooker John Boudebza.
“The news on Mark really isn’t good; he’s in a bad spot at the moment and we’re not going to see him for a long time now,” Cunningham said. “Through one of these silly tackles we see happening too often in the game, he’s out for three months at least – it’ll be a while.
“This lies in the hands of the RFL now because in the space of two weeks we’ve seen two virtual season-ending injuries after Shenton’s. The game has got to outlaw them.
“The adding of the weight where the players swing round the back, they’re the ones that get players badly injured. Unless we ban them as a game then you’re going to see more and more of these injuries occur. It was an accident but if players know it’s not allowed then I think there would be much less of it happening.”
Cunningham also reiterated he will not gamble on the fitness of James Roby for the World Club Series match against Sydney Roosters on Friday. The hooker missed the defeat at Salford with a rib injury. “He’s making really good progress and he’s improving all the time but he’s got to convince me he’s 100% fit,” the coach said. “If he’s not, then I won’t play him because I don’t want to lose him for five or six weeks.
“The game is a great spectacle but I’ve got bigger fish to fry down the line, with the league and the Challenge Cup, and James Roby features highly in all of those plans.”
The final match of the three-game series between Super League and NRL sides is the World Club Challenge between Leeds Rhinos and North Queensland Cowboys on Sunday, and the Leeds coach, Brian McDermott, said all three of the players injured in the defeat by Widnes are still serious doubts for the game.
Carl Ablett, Tom Briscoe and Ashton Golding were all withdrawn during the 56-12 loss to the Vikings that left the champions bottom of the Super League after two games. McDermott was downbeat on the chances of any of the trio making the game against the NRL champions.
“All three of them are still doubtful as it stands,” he said. “Ashton has got a potential broken bone in his foot but even if he hasn’t, the damage in his foot is significant enough. Carl and Tom’s injuries are hard to tell, too; we’re not going to write them off yet but I wouldn’t put money on it. I could cut them all off now but until I get the confirmation I wouldn’t do that.”
The former Australia international Willie Mason is back in Super League after joining Catalans Dragons on a 12-month contract. Mason was a free agent after being released by Manly Sea Eagles at the end of the 2015 season and had been in discussions with the Dragons since November.
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