Aston keen on beefing up back division

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KEEPING key players who have helped lift Sheffield Eagles up the table this season is a priority for coach Mark Aston.

He’ll also be targeting at least two major signings – with a half-back and a centre the likely priority - to boost the team ahead of the 2012 season.

Misi Taulapapa’s move to the Super League with Hull KR – expected to be officially confirmed next week - adds to the need to strengthen the backs.

Aston is deep in talks with players out of contract and is confident of retaining the majority of the squad.

“We’re well on with that and will be making an announcement over the next couple of weeks about the players that are staying,” he said. “There are quite a lot already committed to the club and why would a player want to leave a successful club?”

The Eagles are targeting a top four finish with a win over league leaders Featherstone Rovers at Bramall Lane on Sunday.

At the end of the month rival clubs can approach players and Aston wants to head-off raids. Forwards Ryan Hepworth, Alex Rowe, Joe Hirst and Jack Howieson are out of contract.

Aston has dismissed reports linking utility back Quentin Laulu-Togagae with Super League strugglers Salford Reds and Wakefield Wildcats. Any club would have to pay a transfer fee for the Samoan International who is in his first season at the club.

“Quentin’s got a contract with us for the next 12 months. Nobody has contacted Sheffield Eagles,” he said.

A possible Eagles target could be the return of centre Tangi Ropati who joined Widnes last season. It’s not clear if the Samoan international is in the Vikings plans when they join the Super League in 2012.

He added: “If I can add a couple more quality players, we’ll keep progressing.

“Keep most of the squad and add one or two who will give a bit more. There may be people who we lose but we want to keep the majority of the squad”