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Hardaker cleared after rugby league investigation

The Leeds Rhinos full back Zak Hardaker has been cleared of any wrong-doing following an investigation by the Rugby Football League.

Hardaker cleared after rugby league investigation Credit: Press Association

For the second time in a matter of months Hardaker was accused of using homophobic language during the Rhinos' game against St Helens in August.

The RFL say there was unsufficient evidence for charges to be brought therefore Hardaker is available for the Rhinos playoff matches starting on Saturday.

McDermott plays up recent history of Wigan tie

The recent history of clashes between Leeds Rhinos and Wigan Warriors is set to come in to focus again tonight as the two face each other hoping finish the Super League season on a high.

Leeds boss Brian McDermott says each team's habit of winning trophies as well as some closely contested battles between the two in recent years set the game up to be a thrilling encounter.

Chris Dawkes asked him about how he would be preparing his team for the game:

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Salford sign Rhinos' England for 2015

Salford have signed teenage centre Brad England from Leeds.

The 19-year old son of Castleford's 1986 Challenge Cup winner Keith England joined Castleford's academy in 2011 and moved to Headingley 12 months ago to play for the Rhinos' Under-19s team.

I've been playing rugby league since I was small and it's been my ambition to play in the Super League for a long time. I'm going to have to work hard and it'll be a real challenge to try and make the selection for the first team next season.

– Brad England

Hardaker 'cracking on' despite latest allegations

Leeds Rhinos' Zak Hardaker is training and playing as normal despite being at the centre of another homophobic comments row, according to his head coach.

Brian McDermott admitted the full back had been affected by the allegation which were made after the Rhinos lost to St Helens.

Chris Dawkes spoke to him ahead of the Super League tie against Wigan on Friday:

Rhinos defend against Hardaker "witch-hunt".

Leeds have sprung to the defence of full-back Zak Hardaker, suggesting he may be the victim of a witch-hunt over further allegations of homophobic abuse.

Rhinos defend against Hardaker Credit: Press Association

The 22-year-old England international served a five-match ban earlier this year after being found guilty of making homophobic comments to referee James Child during Leeds' Super League game at Warrington on May 30 and now the Rugby Football League is investigating claims that he made an abusive comment during last Friday's home defeat by St Helens.

Hardaker was shown on television mouthing a comment to Saints forward Mark Flanagan, which was apparently heard by match referee Richard Silverwood, and Leeds say the RFL has employed the services of a lip reader to aid their investigation.

The Rhinos stood by their player following his ban in June and on Wednesday called for an external investigation into the actions of the governing body and its officials into their "vigorous" pursuit of the alleged incident.

We are concerned there appears to be a witch-hunt by the RFL towards Zak Hardaker and we are calling for an external investigation into the issues surrounding the investigation.

We know the match commissioner was asked by the media at the post-match press conference if the referee had reported any incident or comment and they were told 'no'.

We want to know why the referee's report quite mysteriously now contains a reference to a possible comment.

It seems incongruent with the RFL's stance and the vigour that they are now pursuing this incident with that the referee would not have reported this to his superior on the night, as is the protocol in these circumstances, or taken action during the game.

We understand a St Helens player has been interviewed and he has stated he did not hear anything. There is a hint of mystery about the whole issue and the use of a lip reader has added a new dimension to on-field conduct, particularly when games are televised.

– Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington

A spokesman for the RFL declined to confirm whether the services of a lip reader were being called on. "An investigation is taking place," he said. Leeds confirmed that Hardaker would play against Wigan in Friday's top-six clash at the DW Stadium.

Hetherington added: "Whilst the RFL deliberate, we will continue to support Zak and at the same time press the RFL for clear transparency about the whole process."

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Kevin Sinfield retires from international rugby league

England Rugby League and Leeds Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield has announced he is retiring from international competition.

He hasas been capped 26 times for England since his debut in 2000. He received a further 14 caps for Great Britain during that time. Sinfield has appeared in the last three World Cups and has scored 176 points for England.

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