Raper Walks, Gregory Promoted

Wigan Warriors have parted company with coach Stuart Raper with immediate effect, with Mike Gregory taking over the reigns at The JJB Stadium until the end of the season. Raper had announced last week that he will leave The JJB Stadium at the end of the season to return to Australia with his family.

His aim of leaving with a Tetley's Super League Grand Final win under his belt took a blow on Saturday when Widnes won 22-18 at Wigan, and chairman Maurice Lindsay has decided to release him with immediate effect.

Raper's assistant coach Mike Gregory - the successful England Academy boss last year - has been promoted to head coach until the end of the season.

"I had talks with Stuart Raper over the weekend and met with the playing squad on Monday," said Lindsay.

"With Stuart leaving at the end of the season, he would be working under difficult circumstances and it might not be in the best intertests of the team or the club.

"I know that Stuart would be dedicated, but he is still not sure of his opportunities in Australia, and he has admitted that he is looking home for his next job.

"Coaching Wigan is a very demanding occupation, and Mike Gregory will now have that responsibility.

"I am also aware that Mike wants to be considered for the job as full time coach, and it is only fair therefore that he is given an opportunity for the rest of this season to work with the players and press his claim.

"This was also a consideration when we came to the decision.

"This is in no way a criticism of Stuart, and although the performance against Widnes was a big disappointment, we might well have come to the same decision in any circumstances.

"Stuart has worked hard during his stay with us, and we are grateful for that, and I know he wishes us well in the future."

Raper joined Wigan in 2001 from Castleford Tigers to succeed Frank Endacott, and he took the Warriors to a Grand Final in that first season, although they were defeated 37-6 by Bradford.

They won the Challenge Cup against arch-rivals St Helens in Edinburgh last year, but lost to Bradford at the Semi-Final stage of that competition this year.

Saturday's defeat left them five points behind second placed Bradford Bulls in the race for Play-Off places.