WALES are hoping that either Iestyn Harris or Keiron Cunningham will be in the squad against Scotland in Bridgend in their opening Rugby League European Nations Cup game on Sunday 16 October.
The principality's two star players will clash on Friday when Harris' Bradford Bulls meet Cunningham's St Helens at Knowsley Road for a place in the engage Super League Grand Final on Saturday 15 October.
The winner will not be able to play for Wales due to the Grand Final date but one of the players will have a free weekend on October 15-16 making an appearance in a Welsh shirt a possibility.
"It would be a tremendous boost for Wales if Harris or Cunningham were able to appear," said Wales Rugby League Chairman, Mark Rowley. "Both are due to go straight into the Great Britain training camp for the Tri-Nations when their Super League season finishes so it all hinges on whether they are able to be released to play just the one game for us. We will be making every effort to ensure this happens."
Cunningham, who has played 13 times for Wales, last appeared in 2001 in the 33-42 defeat against England in Wrexham. However Harris has not been capped for even longer. Injured in 2001, his 17th and last match in a Wales Rugby League shirt was in the 2000 World Cup semi-final against Australia. Despite this, with 145 points scored for his country, he still holds the all-time Welsh record, 16 points ahead of Jim Sullivan and 46 ahead of Jonathan Davies.
Welsh fans will also be familiar with Harris in a different role as the stand-off played 25 times in three years for the Wales Rugby Union side from 2001-2004, making his union international debut after only two games at club level for Cardiff Blues.
All Welsh fans will be waiting with baited breath to see if he or Cunningham are able to pull on a Wales shirt again this autumn.
WIDNES Vikings' Adam Hughes (pictured)is facing a battle against time to be fit for Wales' crucial opening fixture in this year's Rugby League European Nations Cup writes Ian Golden.
Wales open their campaign on Sunday 16 October against Scotland at the Brewery Field (kick-off 3pm). Scotland v Ireland is in Edinburgh on Sunday 23 October before Wales face Ireland at Terenure University RFC in Dublin on Saturday 29 October. The winners of this group will then play the winners of the European group between France, Georgia and Russia in the final in France on Sunday 6 November.
Hughes, who is due to have an operation on his hand,?played his final match for relegated Widnes Vikings on Sunday at London Broncos losing 10-68. The centre is bound to be disappointed to leave the club in such a fashion but is now looking forward to the future.
"I'm finished with the Vikings so I?m a free agent now," commented Hughes at Griffin Park last Sunday. "I'm looking out for a new club for 2006 and I'm just waiting to see who comes in for me."
Hughes has not ruled out a move to Wales. Celtic Crusaders RLC, the new primary tenants of the home of Welsh Rugby League, Bridgend's Brewery Field, start life in the LHF Healthplan National League Two next season and part of their policy is to aim to recruit a 24-strong playing staff containing at least 18 Welshmen. Crusaders' Chief Executive Chris O'Callaghan is known to want players with Super League experience in his side to aim to get promotion to National League One at the first attempt so acquiring Hughes for the side could be a positive move for the ambitious new Welsh club.
But in the meantime, it is the Wales international side and the European Nations Cup that Hughes is aiming for.
Hughes has played in every senior Wales rugby league international since 2002 and was?man of the tournament for Wales in the 2003 European?Nations Cup?so?does not?want to miss out on European Rugby League's premier annual international tournament this year.
"I'm going to be having the operation on my hand very soon," said Hughes. "If this is a success then I?hope to?be there. I don't like missing out on playing for Wales."
Wales have a poor record in the European Nations Cup since the competition was re-introduced two years ago winning just one out of four matches. However, the success of?the Wales A side, who have won four consecutive Home Nations titles and have only lost two matches in 12 in the last four years, may prove an inspiration for the senior side's hopes of lifting the trophy for the first time in ten years.
For information on ticket prices and availability for the European Nations Cup tie against Scotland on Sunday 16 October, please contact Celtic Crusaders RLC on 01656 651515 or email [email protected]
SCOTLAND have included six Super League players in their 20-man squad for the European Nations Cup clashes with Wales and Ireland next month.
Danny Brough (Hull), Wayne McDonald and Iain Morrison (both Huddersfield), Duncan Macgillivray (Wakefield) and Mike Wainwright (Warrington) are joined by uncapped Bradford hooker Ian Henderson.
HERE are the reports from Bridgend and Kevin Ellis' remarkable Cup double
this weekend. Ellis coached both Brynteg School and Bridgend Blue Bulls to National Final victories in the Powergen Champions Schools Year 7 and Total RL.com RLC Conference Premier Finals respectively.
FANS from Challenge Cup Finalists, Leeds Rhinos and Hull FC were in the crowd at the Brewery Field on Friday to night to see a Wales Presidents XIII outclass but not disgrace a valiant Lebanon Espoirs (a word that roughly translates as hopefuls or emerging) side.
WALES v LEBANON PREVIEW:
IT was only the sinbinning of Ireland?s Matt Clarke that gave Scotland an extra man and the winning try in a well-matched encounter in Brisbane.
AUSTRALIA cruised through to the semi-finals of the Student Rugby League World Cup after beating Wales 74-6 on Sunday in Brisbane.
WALES 25 IRELAND 10
WALES 18 PACIFIC ISLANDS 74