Cunningham calls for dangerous tackles to be outlawed

Saints coach Keiron Cunningham
Saints coach Keiron Cunningham
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SAINTS coach Keiron Cunningham has joined Castleford’s Daryl Powell in calling for dangerous tackles to be outlawed after losing highly-rated centre Mark Percival to a potentially season-ending knee injury.

Percival ruptured medial ligaments during his side’s 44-10 Super League defeat at Salford last Thursday and Cunningham now fears he may need a knee reconstruction.

“We’re going to explore every avenue and do whatever we can but we might be heading down that path,” Cunningham said.

The injury comes a week after Castleford lost their star centre and captain Michael Shenton for the year with a major knee injury and Cunningham says the two incidents highlight a serious concern for the game.

“This is something I’ve told the Rugby League about,” he said. “There probably won’t be any repercussions but there should be because we’ve lost a player for the best part of 12 weeks.

“It’s a swing round, drop on the back of the legs which a lot of players say they can’t help but I know otherwise. I played the game for 18 years.

“We’re going to see what the specialists say but that’s two weeks in a row where we’ve basically seen season-ending knee injuries and we’ve got to do something about these tackles.

“Unless we outlaw them, we’ll see more and more of these injuries. We’ve had three broken legs in the space of 12 months and a lot of them involving tackles like this.

“The NRL have completely stamped it out but we seem more concerned about what people think about the bans.”

The incident was considered by the Rugby Football League’s match-review panel on Monday but the contact by Salford forward Adam Walne was judged to be accidental.

The loss of Percival could mean St Helens going into Friday’s opening match of the Dacia World Club Series against Sydney Roosters without an experienced centre and Cunningham says he is considering giving a debut to 20-year-old Welsh junior international Calvin Wellington.

New signing Dominic Peyroux began the season in the threequarters but missed the Salford game through injury and remains doubtful for the clash with the Roosters, as does England hooker James Roby, who is nursing a rib injury.

“He’s touch and go and it’s the same with Robes,” Cunningham said. “If he’s not 100 per cent, I won’t risk him because it’s a long season ahead of us.”

Cunningham says forward Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook will be back in the pack on Friday after filling in at centre against Salford as he considers his selection posers.

“We’ve got lots of options,” he said. “Young Calvin Wellington did a really good job in the reserves at the weekend.

“He’s definitely got something going for him so his debut might be in the one of the biggest games in the world.”

Sydney Roosters will give a debut to 19-year-old Jayden Nikorima alongside 20-year-old Jackson Hastings as they begin to cope without co-captain Mitchell Pearce, who remains suspended pending the outcome of an investigation into an alleged drunken escapade on Australia Day.

“Obviously it’s difficult losing a starting half-back,” Roosters coach Trent Robinson said. “He’s going to be missed but somebody has to fill his shoes in the early part of the season and that’s where Jackson Hastings and Jayden Nikorima will have to stand up.”