Kiwis set to win club v country battle - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Kiwis set to win club v country battle

By Todd Balym and Leonard Siragusa 01/05/2008 07:43:14 PM Comments (0)

New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney is adamant his country will win the battle with English Super League clubs to release players for next week's Centenary Test with Australia.

Kearney expects Wigan five-eighth Thomas Leuluai and Leeds fullback Brent Webb to both join the squad in Sydney on Monday to begin preparations for the Test despite protests from their clubs.

England's Rugby Football League (RFL) chief executive Nigel Wood has complained about the timing of next week's Centenary Test as it clashes with the fifth round of their Challenge Cup.

Wood wrote to the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) protesting the mid-season fixture and questioned rules which state clubs must release their players for international duty.

A teleconference is expected to be held within the next 48 hours to make a ruling on the situation, but AAP understands the RLIF will not relax their stance, especially considering the Test match is the landmark occasion of the centenary celebrations.

"As far as I am concerned they are going to be turning up on Monday night. That's when the plane arrives," said Kearney.

"Until I hear different, that's what is happening.

"There always is (an issue with clubs at) this time of year.

"I have named them in the squad and I expect them to be there on Monday night."

The RFL will abide by any international ruling, but Wood questioned the scheduling of the Sydney match as it threatened the viability of Test rugby league to expect players to travel inter-hemisphere to play without reasonable rest.

"If international competition is to continue to be regarded as the pinnacle of the sport, such contests should not ask players to play when they can only arrive a very short time before the match," he said in a statement.

"In respect of mid-season internationals, we clearly understand the legitimate concerns of our clubs when travel between hemispheres places an unreasonable demand on players.

"Also, in this case, the international in question falls within an extremely important period for the clubs.

"We have made clear representations to the New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) in relation to these issues.

"The RFL is of the view that there is an established and agreed protocol in international, inter-hemisphere rugby league that teams are only asked to play with a minimum of a week's rest after travel and therefore we believe the same conditions should apply to individual players."

But RLIF chairman Colin Love said, not only had a mid-season fixture been held for the past decade, but this year's clash had the added significance of being played 100 years to the day since the game began.

"A Test match between Australia and New Zealand has been played in this window of the year for the last 10 years," said Love.

"It's not something new or (that's) been sprung on them. This year has particular importance as it is celebrating the centenary and 100 years to the day when the first Test match was played between Australia and New Zealand."

Meanwhile, Kearney confirmed South Sydney's Roy Asotasi was never in danger of losing the New Zealand captaincy, despite leading the player revolt against former coach Gary Kemble.

"I think he is the best man for the job," said Kidwell.

"He's got some fairly handy leaders around him. From my point of view, Roy was always going to be captain."

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