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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 March 2007, 06:45 GMT
Edwards set for special return
By Phil Harlow

Former league star Steve Prescott (picture courtesy of Hull FC)
Prescott is one of the most popular players in rugby league
Rugby league legend Shaun Edwards has carved out a successful career as a rugby union coach since retiring as a player seven years ago.

But the most decorated player in British history has a special reason to return to his first love next month.

Edwards will coach a Legends side against St Helens' 1996 Challenge Cup-winning team at Knowsley Road on 22 April in a fundraising match for former Saints star Steve Prescott, who is battling against cancer.

Prescott had abdominal surgery in November and is now undergoing chemotherapy after being diagnosed with pseudomyxoma peritonei - a rare form of the disease - last year.

"It's typical of the rugby league family that everyone's rallied round to support Steve and his family during this very tough time," Edwards told BBC Sport.

"I think there's something special about the sport - things like this tell you everything you need to know about the camaraderie and spirit in league. People have been falling over themselves to play and that's indicative of the characters the sport produces."

Edwards was initially asked to play in next month's game, but the after-effects of the injuries which brought his glittering career to an end in April 2000 meant he volunteered to coach instead.

If Steve could just kick the match off, or come on for two minutes, that would show you the calibre of the man

Shaun Edwards
"I don't know Steve closely, but I played with him for England a few times and was impressed with him as a player and as a person," said Edwards.

"He always had a smile on his face and was just great fun to be around.

"I played against him numerous times and he was a very difficult opponent. He had unbelievable speed, and he was very, very strong for a man of his size."

Prescott is a popular figure, and the 32-year-old father of two has already benefited from a number of fundraising events.

Stuart Fielden and Lee Radford squared up in the Rumble by the Humber, raising more then 50,000 in the process, while former Saints star Tommy Martyn auctioned his 1996 Challenge Cup winners' medal for the cause.

Martin Offiah, Terry O'Connor, Barry McDermott, David Topliss, Kevin Ellis, John Devereux, Bobbie Goulding, Kris Radlinski, Gary Conolly and Paul Newlove have all agreed to turn out in the match at Knowsley Road.

Shaun Edwards during Wigan's glory years
Edwards won every domestic trophy going in rugby league
"It won't be a game of touch, that's for sure, but you've got to remember that a lot of the guys who will be playing have been retired for quite some time," added Edwards.

"I'm sure most of the guys will make sure they turn up in good condition, but I'll leave it to them. We might have a meeting in the bar before the game, but that's about as far as training will go!"

Edwards is hoping Prescott, a former Great Britain international, will be able to play some part in the action.

"Steve has actually got to undergo chemotherapy a few days before the game, but he's been trying to do a little bit of training so he can hopefully make an appearance," he said.

"If he could just kick the match off, or come on for two minutes, that would show you the calibre of the man."

Edwards says he is looking forward to his involvement in the 13-man code after more than five years in union with top Premiership side Wasps.

I don't think Steve Prescott realises how popular he is within the sport as a whole

Former Saints captain Chris Joynt
"Obviously I'm in union now, but I was brought up on rugby league and I probably still know more about it than I do union," he said.

"I'm very much enjoying my time in union, but I can't get away from the fact that league has been part of my life for longer than I can remember."

Former St Helens captain Chris Joynt, another of the stars playing in the match, said Prescott - who also played for Hull and Wakefield - has a special place in the hearts of Saints supporters.

"My favourite memory of Steve is his performance in the 1996 Challenge Cup final. He scored two tries and just had a brilliant game," Joynt told BBC Sport.

"He was a great competitor and gave 100% for whoever he was playing for and he was a great trainer who would really get stuck in on the weights.

"In many respects he was ahead of his time in terms of the attention he paid to his diet and the way he looked after himself.

"I spoke to him last week, and I don't think he realises how popular he is within the sport as a whole."


Tickets for the match, which kicks off at 1400 BST on 22 April at Knowsley Road, are available from the XIII Heroes website - www.xiiiheroes.com

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


SEE ALSO
Radford wins 50,000 charity bout
03 Feb 07 |  Rugby League
League boys ready to rumble
01 Feb 07 |  Rugby League
Martyn sells medal for team-mate
15 Jan 07 |  Rugby League
Injury finishes Prescott
18 Jun 04 |  Hull
Prescott signs Hull deal
12 Jun 03 |  My Club
Champion of champions
27 Feb 04 |  Challenge Cup
Edwards switches codes
09 Aug 01 |  Rugby League


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