UK league game loses test status
11 May 2006Â
By JOHN COFFEY
Test match status has been withdrawn from the match between New Zealand and Great Britain rugby league teams at Knowsley Road, St Helens, on June 27.
Resigned to not being able to select any top-line Kiwis from the Australian NRL competition, the New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) yesterday downgraded the game arranged last month to assist both countries in their Tri-Nations preparations.
It is expected British coach Brian Noble will still field his strongest side â€“ with the probable exceptions of Australian-based Brian Carney (Newcastle) and Adrian Morley (Sydney Roosters) â€“ but it will be playing a New Zealand XIII.
"We originally thought we might get half a dozen NRL players released, but it's an uphill battle and we have had a good look at it again," said NZRL president Sel Bennett last night.
Bennett said the nucleus of the New Zealand XIII would be drawn from British Super League clubs but up to four young players â€“ with emphasis on the inside backs and fullback â€“ would travel from the southern hemisphere.
One who has been confirmed is Parramatta stand-off half Jeremy Smith, who has made several first-grade appearances for the Eels this season.
"We are looking hard at the NJC (national junior competition). If there are a couple of 18-year-olds we would take them as well for the experience," Bennett said.
AdvertisementAdvertisementStacey Jones, who was not available for last Friday night's Anzac test at Brisbane because of a broken arm, was expected to resume playing for French club Les Catalans next week and would be an automatic inclusion in the New Zealand XIII.
The lack of suitable inside backs to succeed 40-test, 11-year veteran Jones was exposed when London-based Thomas Leuluai struggled at Brisbane, particularly with his field kicking, before suffering a hamstring tear that will sideline him for up to eight weeks.
Jones would be an ideal mentor to any young inside backs who accompany Kiwis coach Brian McClennan to England.
"We're looking to develop (halves), we badly need to. We'll also look at the Bartercard Cup to see if we can find some young halfback to take up there and maybe bring off the bench," Bennett said.
This game will still be interesting, it should show the english how much they can win by. BUT with stacey jones, i am guessing vinocola(sp) and a few other stars from the UK super league it should be a good game. i hope we get it down here even if its not a test match