Steve McNamara defended Israel Folau's personal choice after the controversial rugby star elected not to take a knee before Catalans Dragons' 34-6 Super League defeat to St Helens.

In keeping with displays of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement across the sporting world over recent months, players on both sides knelt before the UK's premier rugby league competition resumed.

The exception was Folau, leaving Catalans coach McNamara to address the Australia's refusal to take part in the gesture, which has been widely interpreted as a means of displaying a united front against and solidarity with the victims of police brutality.

"As a club and a group of players and coaching staff we spoke about it in depth," McNamara said.

"As a whole club we are completely against racism, we are completely for equal opportunity but there were some players and staff who made a decision not to the knee and that was based on their personal choice.

"As a group we decided we would respect anybody's personal choice in and around this matter. I think you've seen in some other sports that situation happening and those individuals have their own reasons for doing that."

Folau returned to rugby league with Catalans in January after Rugby Australia sacked him for posting homophobic slurs on his social media accounts.

Former Great Britain and England international Leon Pryce, who is himself of Jamaican descent, replied to a tweet reporting Folau's actions at Headingley to show support.

Pryce said Folau's decision was "absolutely fine" and added: " Nobody should feel like they are forced to do anything they are not comfortable with."

There was nothing so notable about the efforts of Folau or his team-mates on the field as Saints ran out convincing winners.

Lachlan Coote was the star of the show, crossing in each half and landing five conversions to end with an 18-point haul.

Challenge Cup holders Warrington Wolves will take on St Helens in the quarter-finals of this year's competition.

Warrington and Saints – who faced off in the 2019 final, which the Wolves won convincingly 18-4 – were two of six sides given byes to the last eight after the sixth round had to be redrawn.

This was due to Toronto Wolfpack, along with five sides outside of Super League, withdrawing from the tournament in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wigan Warriors await the winner of a sixth-round tie between Castleford Tigers and Hull FC, while the victor of Catalans Dragons and Wakefield Trinity will meet Salford Red Devils.

Leeds Rhinos will face Hull Kingston Rovers in the other quarter-final tie, with the games to be played on 19-20 September, while the sixth-round matches will take place in Huddersfield on August 22.

The Super League season will restart on August 2.

St Helens have confirmed they have reached an agreement for James Graham to return to the club when the Super League season resumes.

Graham had announced on Monday he was to return to his boyhood club, having left them to move to the NRL in 2012 after making over 200 appearances for Saints.

He contested two NRL Grand Finals with Canterbury Bulldogs, losing both, before a move to St. George-Illawarra Dragons ahead of the 2018 season.

However, his time with the Dragons is poised to come to an end.

"Given the recent media speculation and interviews conducted in Australia, St. Helens R.F.C. can confirm it has reached an agreement with James Graham to return to his boyhood club for the remainder of the 2020 Betfred Super League season," a St Helens statement read.

"The club hopes to have Graham in the squad in time for the resumption of the 2020 season, however this move is subject to formal paperwork being completed.

"A further announcement will be made in due course."

St George Illawarra Dragons are considering James Graham's release request as the Englishman eyes a return to St Helens in the Super League.

Graham's career in the NRL could be over, with the English prop seeking an immediate move back to his homeland via former club St Helens.

The 34-year-old, who is in the last season of his three-year Dragons contract, left St Helens for Canterbury Bulldogs in 2012 before joining St George in 2018.

"St George Illawarra have been involved in discussions with Dragons forward James Graham and his management regarding an opportunity for him to return to the English Super League with immediate effect," the Dragons said in a statement on Thursday.

"The Dragons will consider this option for Graham on the merit a replacement player is secured by the club prior to his release.

"The Dragons will be making no further comment regarding Graham at this stage."

Graham has made five appearances for the struggling Dragons this season, tallying 154 tackles and boasting a 95.4 per cent efficiency.

The Dragons are third from bottom in the coronavirus-hit competition after five rounds in Australia.

England prop Luke Thompson has joined Canterbury Bulldogs ahead of schedule after refusing to take a pay cut with St Helens.

Thompson was due to move to the NRL ahead of the 2021 season after signing a three-year deal in February.

The 25-year-old will instead head to Belmore with immediate effect for an undisclosed fee, ending a 13-year stay with the Super League champions.

Saints chairman Eamonn McManus revealed the club decided to grant Thompson an early release from his contract after he would not agree to take a reduction in his salary amid the coronavirus pandemic.

McManus said: "St Helens had been placed in a difficult position as Luke Thompson had opted not to participate in our club wide squad and staff pay reduction arrangement for the 2020 season, this being necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic and its significant commercial consequences."

Thompson will spend two weeks in quarantine before being available to make his Bulldogs debut.

Canterbury chief executive Andrew Hill said: "It is fantastic news that Luke will be able to arrive next week and be available to play this season after serving the compulsory isolation period.

"To have an international forward, seen by many as one the best front-rowers in the game, arrive early is tremendous news for all of our members and fans and a great boost for our squad for the rest of this season.

"I must thank St Helens for enabling this to happen and Luke for showing great character in arriving early and being prepared to sit through his isolation phase before joining us.

"We are hopeful that Luke will be out on the field representing the Bulldogs within the next month."

The coronavirus pandemic is still raising questions across sport, even with the global calendar decimated by cancelled and postponed events.

Coronavirus has, according to official figures, caused around 6,500 deaths from approximately 170,000 confirmed cases worldwide.

As the pandemic continues, there are going to be some big decisions made in the world of sport over the coming week, with UEFA's 55 members set to come together – via video conference – on Tuesday.

The fate of this season's Champions League and Europa League will be up for debate, while Euro 2020 is also to be discussed.

Here is a look at the latest developments:


Ahead of Tuesday's meeting with UEFA, Italian football federation (FIGC) president Gabriele Gravina confirmed he will call for Euro 2020 to be postponed, in the hope that might allow the Serie A season to be finished in June.

This proposal will likely be backed by LaLiga boss Javier Tebas, who is convinced the top-flight season in Spain will be completed. Swiss FA president Dominique Blanc, meanwhile, has confirmed he has coronavirus.

It is not yet clear what will happen in the Premier League, with the teams set to reconvene for another meeting on Thursday and, after coming under criticism for stating that the season should be considered "null and void", West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady defended her comments.

"The Premier League and EFL are doing all we can to ensure the season is finished. Including suspending games, isolating players, and if required playing games behind closed doors and into the summer months," she wrote on Twitter.

"My point was safety of fans, players, staff come first and if the remaining games just cannot be played the only fair and reasonable thing is to declare [the] season null and void."

In a newspaper column, Wayne Rooney backed the decision to postpone fixtures in England, but criticised the Premier League and EFL for taking so long to make the call.

More players have confirmed they have tested positive for COVID-19.

Valencia defender Ezequiel Garay became the first LaLiga player to be named as having the illness, with the club adding four more members of the first-team playing and coaching staff had also tested positive.

Valencia's former Manchester City defender Eliaquim Mangala confirmed later on Sunday that he was one of those with the virus.

In Serie A, Sampdoria's Omar Colley posted a video to his official Instagram account in which he refuted his club's claim that he too had received a positive test result.

Meanwhile, Manchester United's Paul Pogba joined the raft of sports stars pledging to support people during the crisis, as he launched a fundraiser to mark his 27th birthday.

In France, Paris Saint-Germain announced they had extended the suspension of all club operations until March 18.

In the United States, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert – the first NBA player to be diagnosed with coronavirus – provided a positive update on his recovery, while also stating: "I wish I would have took this thing more seriously and I hope everyone else will do so because we can do it together."

Not all sport has been postponed just yet, with rugby league in both Britain and Australia continuing for now.

In Super League, Castleford Tigers ran out winners over defending champions St Helens, though in the National Rugby League (NRL), Melbourne Storm's Cameron Smith called for the competition to be suspended.

Round two is set to go ahead next week, albeit behind closed doors, while New Zealand Warriors have elected to remain in Australia rather than return to Auckland, where they would have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Castleford Tigers moved level on points with Wigan Warriors at the top of Super League after they triumphed 28-14 against defending champions St Helens.

With rugby league – for now – continuing despite sporting events and competitions across the globe being postponed due to coronavirus, it was the Tigers who impressed in Sunday's solitary Super League fixture.

After a bright start, Castleford were up and running 12 minutes in, Peter Mata'utia bursting through following fine work from Danny Richardson, who subsequently added the extras against his former club.

Mata'utia turned provider for Derrell Olpherts eight minutes later, with the latter then doubling his tally with a superb diving finish in the corner, though Saints' Tommy Makinson reduced the deficit to 10 points at half-time.

Having played the last 10 minutes of the first half without the cautioned Matty Lees, Saints lost Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook to the sin bin shortly after the restart, with Cheyse Blair extending the Tigers' advantage.

Jack Welsby crossed for Saints, but Jake Trueman soon delivered another Castleford score as the Tigers clinched a fifth win in seven outings.

Luke Thompson's late try was no more than a consolation effort for Saints, who have now lost three times this season to sit in sixth place.

Marc Sneyd slotted through a 40-metre drop-goal in golden-point extra time to give Hull FC a 27-26 victory over Wakefield Trinity in Super League on Friday.

Half-back Sneyd added a pair of penalties to tries from Mahe Fonua, Jamie Shaul and Kieran Buchanan as Hull went into half-time with what appeared a comfortable 14-point lead.

However, Jay Pitts crossed and Ryan Atkins - making his 100th appearance for Wakefield - touched down his second of the game to reduce the arrears as Wakefield mounted an impressive fightback.

Albert Kelly went over for Hull after the hour mark but a Tom Johnstone double levelled the scores late on, with Max Jowitt failing to convert either try.

Hull punished Jowitt's error, with Sneyd ensuring they left with the two points in the additional period.

Blake Austin scored a last-minute drop goal to give Warrington Wolves a 9-8 victory over Castleford Tigers, who would have gone top with a win.

Warrington consequently joined Hull and St Helens in mid-table on six points, with defending champions Saints having gone down 12-10 at home to Huddersfield Giants.

St Helens had little difficulty seeing off Toronto Wolfpack 32-0 in Super League on Saturday, with Jonny Lomax in fine form as the hosts remain pointless.

Lomax got his first tries of the season in the first half, as defending champions St Helens took a 20-0 lead into the break at Warrington's Halliwell Jones Stadium – James Bentley also going over in the 28th minute.

Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Aaron Smith touched down in the second half, securing an emphatic victory that sees Saints - who bounced back from World Club Challenge disappointment - go second in Super League, behind Castleford Tigers.

Toronto remain rooted to the foot of the table having lost all five matches in their inaugural Super League campaign.

Sydney Roosters have won the World Club Challenge for a record fifth time thanks to a hard-fought 20-12 victory over St Helens.

The back-to-back NRL champions defeated Wigan Warriors in the 2019 one-off fixture and, despite falling behind against Saints on Saturday, once again came out on top against their Super League counterparts.

Luke Thompson – who will head to Australia after the season to join the Canterbury Bulldogs – opened the scoring when he crashed over from Theo Fages' pass for a converted try.

The Dragons roared back, however, with Daniel Tupou hanging on to a low pass by his boots before waltzing over the line on his side's left flank.

Joseph Manu put the visitors in front when he touched down on the opposite side of the field for his first of the game, diving over as Saints were caught short of numbers out wide.

Kyle Flanagan – making his debut for the Roosters – hit the posts with both conversion attempts, making it 8-6 at the half-time interval.

Saints had opportunities to hit back after the break, wing Tommy Makinson ruled to have knocked on as he attempted to score under pressure.

Instead it was the Roosters who crucially scored next, Manu grabbing his second try. Luke Keary then provided the finish following Siosiua Taukeiaho's initial break from inside his own half, putting the game beyond St Helens.

Alex Walmsley did plunge over for a late consolation score, Makinson adding the extras, but Sydney held on to retain the trophy and maintain their 100 per cent record in the annual competition.

Hull FC's winning start to the Super League season came grinding to a halt in a 32-18 home defeat to St Helens, while Wakefield Trinity picked up their first win of the campaign at the expense of Warrington Wolves.

Saints trailed 6-2 by half-time at KC Stadium courtesy of Carlos Tuimavave scoring a try against the run of play before Marc Sneyd converted, but the visitors stormed into the lead within 10 minutes of the restart as Matthew Costello and Luke Thompson went over in quick succession.

Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, James Bentley and Aaron Smith added further scores in a blistering second-half performance from Kristian Woolf's side that rendered tries from Hull's Tuimavave and Jamie Shaul irrelevant as Saints replaced their hosts at the top of the table.

Wakefield's season began with a disappointing defeat at Hull KR but Chris Chester's men bounced back with a home win over Warrington, who led 2-0 at the break after Stefan Ratchford's 38th-minute penalty.

Ryan Hampshire gave Trinity the lead with three well-taken penalties after the restart, and although Ratchford went over and converted to restore Warrington's lead, the game hinged on two minutes that saw Matty Ashurst and Tom Johnstone steam in for tries that Hampshire converted.

The result leaves both sides with two points from their opening trio of games ahead of Trinity's trip to Castleford Tigers and Warrington's clash with struggling Toronto Wolfpack on Friday.

Mark Percival has committed his future to St Helens until the end of the 2024 Super League season.

The England centre, who joined Saints as a 14-year-old, has scored 88 tries and kicked 225 points in 158 appearances.

Percival, who made his first-team debut against Leeds Rhinos in 2013, was among the try scorers as Saints defeated Salford Red Devils to win the Grand Final last season.

"I am over the moon. I have loved being at this club since I joined at the age of 14," Percival, who scored 12 tries in 26 appearances last season, told Saints' official website.

"Leaving has never really come into my mind and to be offered a five-year deal, I am buzzing."

Percival, who also won the 2014 Grand Final with Saints, is set to miss the next few weeks having injured his shoulder and sternum in the 19-0 loss to Warrington Wolves last time out.

Head coach Kristian Woolf added: "I'm delighted Mark has signed a new deal with us. He's as tough as they come and although only in his mid-twenties, is a player with a vast amount of experience.

"Having won two Grand Finals he clearly knows how to win and that is hugely beneficial to our group and the younger players. 

"We will miss Percy over the coming weeks given his injury, but when he is back fit, I have no doubt he will continue to be an important player for us over the coming years."

Warrington got the better of neighbours and reigning Super League champions St Helens - just as they did in last season's Challenge Cup final.

A 19-0 victory on Thursday saw hosts Warrington put an opening defeat to Wigan behind them, while Saints failed to make it two wins from two at the start of their title defence following their thumping of Salford last Friday.

Tries from Daryl Clark, Tom Lineham and Josh Charnley did the damage, as Saints unusually failed to get on the scoresheet.

Warrington won 18-4 when these sides met at Wembley last August, and their hopes were bolstered this time when Saints lost Alex Walmsley to injury in the warm-up.

The first try of the night arrived after half an hour when Clark bounded over, resisting the attentions of Jack Ashworth to ground the ball.

Winger Lineham was next to break through St Helens' defence, collecting and crossing in the right corner. Stefan Ratchford booted the touchline conversion before Blake Austin's drop goal gave the hosts a 13-0 interval cushion.

Lineham's defensive skills were on show as he prevented Kevin Naiqama raiding for a St Helens try early in the second half, with Ratchford also later denying the Fijian.

Charnley made St Helens count the cost of those misses when he put the finishing touches to Matty Ashton's pass and Ratchford added a penalty.

Saints thought they had a consolation try late on, but Jonny Lomax was ruled by the television official not to have grounded the ball after he barged through the home defence.

Luke Thompson is to join NRL side Canterbury Bulldogs at the end of the Super League season from reigning champions St Helens.

The 24-year-old is out of contract at the end of the 2020 campaign and has made the decision to continue his career in Australia.

Thompson was man of the match when Saints won the Grand Final against Salford last season, his second title with the team.

If he ever opts to return to the Super League, the England and Great Britain prop would be warmly welcomed back by Saints, who expressed their regret at losing a player who made his debut in 2013 after coming through their academy.

"We accept and totally respect Luke's decision and wish him nothing but success in his career and in his life," Saints chairman Eamonn McManus said on Monday.

"There's no hiding from the fact that this is a bitter disappointment to all of us as Luke has been connected to the club since the age of 11 and has developed into an absolute top player at 24 years old."

Thompson has also won three League Leaders' Shields and made over 150 appearances for Saints, including last week’s emphatic 48-8 win over Salford in a Grand Final rematch that opened the 2020 season.

McManus added: "We are absolutely sure that he will be absolutely committed to the club and to his team-mates for the rest of this season.

"If ever he decides to return to England and to Super League then there would be a red carpet waiting for him at St Helens."

The Bulldogs finished 12th last season and have not made the NRL Finals since 2016.

St Helens comfortably beat Salford Red Devils in a repeat of the 2019 Super League Grand Final, while four-try Ben Crooks inspired Hull Kingston Rovers to an opening win over Wakefield Trinity.

Saints cruised to a 23-6 triumph over the Red Devils at Old Trafford in October, and they got their 2020 campaign off to a flying start under new coach Kristian Woolf with a 48-8 home victory.

Salford head coach Ian Watson signed a contract extension on Thursday but, having lost key players such as Jackson Hastings, his side were no match for the defending champions.

After Salford, who face Sonny Bill Williams and the Toronto Wolfpack next week, took a two-point lead, Jonny Lomax slipped in Zeb Taia for Saints' first try. Alex Walmsley and Theo Fages then got in on the act before half-time.

Ken Sio just failed to ground a loose ball before sliding into touch shortly after the restart and Saints made their good fortune count as Kevin Naiqama bundled his way over.

Sio did manage to pull a try back for the visitors, yet Naiqama's second put Saints clear before Jack Welsby's double and another from Walmsley wrapped up a 17th straight home win.

At Craven Park, Crooks was the star of the show with his flurry of tries in Hull KR's 30-12 triumph over Wakefield.

Crooks got things rolling for Rovers in the ninth minute, with Greg Minkin's debut try putting the hosts well in control.

Wakefield twice threatened to fight back but, ultimately, three tries in the space of 24 second-half minutes from Crooks and one from Ryan Brierley claimed the points.

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