WILLIE Mason is looking forward to tussling with Wigan’s Stuart Fielden again – but he may have to wait.
The former Australia Test forward was unveiled to a media circus at Hull KR yesterday.
One of the game’s most colourful and controversial figures, Mason is remembered for knocking out Great Britain prop Fielden with a single punch during the 2006 Tri Nations Series in Sydney.
The pair have not gone head-to-hear since that competition. And Mason – who has a two-year-deal with the Robins – is looking forward to a rematch during club colours later this year.
He said: “Stuart’s a goer, he’s a very proud man and I’m pretty sure he wants to square up and play as hard as he can with me. I’m looking forward to it.
“I won’t take a backward step against anyone, regardless of whether it’s Stuart Fielden or any English players.”
Wigan first face Hull KR at Craven Park on April 15 – but Fielden is unlikely to figure after undergoing surgery to a troubling knee problem.
Fielden had already had two ‘clean-outs’ during the off-season, but with the problem still not resolved, he went for an operation on Monday afternoon. Michael Maguire said the worst case scenario was that the 31-year-old will be out for three months – but the coach is hopeful it will be closer to two.
Either way, Fielden would appear to be out of the reckoning for the match against Mason’s Hull KR in five weeks’ time. And he faces a race against time to be fit for the return encounter, at the DW Stadium, on May 30.
If Fielden is not back in time, the pair may have to wait until 2012 for their ‘rematch’ – unless Wigan and Hull KR meet in the Challenge Cup or play-offs.
Maguire admitted it was a blow to lose a player of Fielden’s experience and calibre, particularly with Australians Brett Finch and Pat Richards also currently sidelined.
It leaves him with just three front-line specialist props – Andy Coley, Jeff Lima and Paul Prescott – although back-rower Lee Mossop has also been operating in the front-row this season.
With injury-hit Eamon O’Carroll showing no signs of returning to full fitness, Fielden’s absence may provide an opportunity for young props Ben Davies and Dom Crosby to edge into the reckoning. Second-rower Chris Tuson would also put his hand up to play prop if given the chance.