Leigh Leopards’ Papua New Guinea star to make return with forward still sidelined

Ben Olawumi
Edwin Ipape, Robbie Mulhern

Leigh Leopards' Edwin Ipape (left) & Robbie Mulhern (right)

Leigh Leopards will welcome back Papua New Guinea star Edwin Ipape for Saturday’s clash with Castleford Tigers, but key forward Robbie Mulhern remains sidelined, boss Adrian Lam has confirmed.

Hooker Ipape, who made the Super League Dream Team last year, has been out injured since Round 1.

Back in February, as the Leopards were beaten on home soil by Huddersfield Giants, he ruptured his MCL within the opening 10 minutes and hasn’t been able to take to the field since.

That was the first in a long list of injuries suffered by Leigh players in the early weeks of the season, some of whom still remain sidelined as we approach Round 10.

But having seen captain John Asiata return last week as they beat Catalans Dragons 30-2, recording a first home win of the season in the league, boss Lam expects to have Ipape back at his disposal as Castleford come to town.

Leigh Leopards’ Papua New Guinea star to make return against Castleford Tigers

Detailing the current state of his squad ahead of their Round 10 clash with the Tigers, Lam said: “We’ve got a couple of niggling injuries from the game last week which we’ll sort out through to captain’s run, but I think we’ll add Edwin Ipape to the 21 this week.

“John (Asiata) played last week, and got a couple of niggles in the short time that he played, but he’ll be included in the squad.

“The big one for us though is probably Edwin coming in. He’s looking bigger than he’s ever looked and fitter than he’s ever been where I’ve seen him.

“Hopefully he gets through this week in good shape and then he can make the 17 at the weekend. Those players (that have been out injured) probably need six weeks to get their form up, but we’ll have some sort of selection headache.

“It’s massive for our club. We’ve never had the biggest of squads, but these players are players that were the best in their positions last year, some of them playing for a great deal of time, and getting into the Super League Dream Team.

“Robbie Mulhern played for England at the end of the year, and hasn’t played a lot for us this season, so we’ve missed that experience and that next level.

“I haven’t dwelled too much on that over the last couple of weeks, I’ve just been focusing on the players that have come in and done a decent job.”

Key Leopards forward remains sidelined, but return is near, says boss Adrian Lam

Mulhern, who has also appeared on the international front for Ireland, has managed just seven appearances to date this year. The prop has been missing for the majority of the last two months, experiencing separate issues with both of his calves.

Touching on those who will miss out this weekend, and discussing his options, Lam continued: “Obviously Dan Norman failed his HIA last week, but I think that’s his second or third (failed HIA), so he’s going to miss a couple of weeks now sadly.

“Robbie Mulhern’s probably got another week (to go), so he’ll either be back for Salford or Huddersfield the week after the (break for the) Challenge Cup semi-finals.

“He’ll probably be in the squad next week, and if he gets through okay, then he’ll come back into consideration.

“Our 18th and 19th man last week were (Louis) Brogan and Darnell McIntosh, so those players might come into consideration.”

Lam details excitement over potential Darnell McIntosh debut: ‘Exactly what we need to have at this stage of the season’

McIntosh only joined the Leopards a few days prior to last Friday’s clash with Catalans, making the move from Hull FC in a permanent swap deal which saw Tom Briscoe go the other way.

The Leopards’ newest recruit accordingly still awaits his debut, and his boss is eager to see him get going. He warmed up with the squad on the Leigh Sports Village pitch ahead of their victory against the Dragons, and has quickly bedded into life as a Leyther.

Lam continued: “He’s an outside-back, centre, winger or full-back, and I think if he gets in the 17 this week, he’ll probably come off the bench and get an opportunity in one of those positions.

“He’s fitted in reasonably well with the group, he’s started to understand some of our language that we have in attack and defence, and that’s what the priority has been.

“It was, ‘let’s just get him here and let’s have a look at him, get him to fit into our system, get used to our repetitions and then give him an opportunity’.

“There is some pressure on the outside-backs, but that’s exactly what we need to have at this stage of the season, especially when we’ve got some players coming back from injury.

“I’m looking forward to watching him play to be honest with you. He looks like he’s got some speed about him, which is probably what we need most at the club at the moment. I’m excited to see him when he gets that opportunity.”