St Helens have cited Widnes prop Manase Manuokafoa for the tackle that looks to have condemned scrum-half Matty Smith to a lengthy lay-off.
The former England international was helped from the field with a suspected broken leg just before half-time in Saints’ 16-0 win over the Vikings in Sunday’s pre-season friendly. Ironically, coach Keiron Cunningham had planned to rest the player for the second half.
It was Smith’s first appearance since re-joining his hometown club from Wigan but he will definitely miss St Helens’ opening Betfred Super League game against Leeds on February 9 and could be sidelined for several weeks.
“Last night’s initial results weren’t great,” Cunningham said at his club’s weekly press conference. “We’ve got him across to a specialist today.
“He’s going to be out for a period. We’re not 100 per cent sure yet how long that will be.
“It’s not season-ending but it’s not good for the immediate future.
It was absolutely disgusting. It’s a tackle I’ve been trying to get outlawedKeiron Cunningham
“It’s one of the most important positions in your team but it’s something we’re used to at this club, losing important players. I’d have liked to at least get into the season before we start losing them but you’ve got to deal with the cards you are dealt.”
Manuokafoa will face a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday if the Rugby Football League’s match-review panel decide to bring a charge.
Cunningham compared the tackle to the one from Hull KR hooker John Boudebza in the opening game last year that ended Castleford captain Michael Shenton’s season.
“It was absolutely disgusting,” Cunningham said. “It’s a tackle that I’ve been trying to get outlawed for three years. We’ve lost two more people with broken legs and probably three or four with syndesmosis through that tackle.
“Like everything else, we’re reactive, never pro-active, so now the kid will probably get a long-term ban.
“We’ve cited him so he’s going to be up on a charge this week. If you thought the Boudebza tackle on Shenton last year was bad, well this was 10 times worse. It’s horrendous.
“Matty has not even got the ball. He grabs hold of Matty’s shoulders and drops his legs. He drops all his 120 kilos onto Matty’s ankles. It’s actually harder to do that tackle than to push Matty off the ball.
“I just hope someone at the league stands up and does something about it.”
Smith, who helped Wigan to their Grand-Final success in October, was signed as a straight replacement for Luke Walsh and partnered Frenchman Theo Fages for the first tiime.