WALES' assistant coach Kevin Ellis believes that Wales should have more matches in 2007 to help celebrate the centenary of rugby league in the principality.
Wales are expected to field Super League stars Iestyn Harris and Lee Briers when they face Scotland at the Brewery Field this Sunday in their first match of the 2008 World Cup qualifying campaign (kick-off 3pm), but this is the only game that Wales will play this year.
In 2007, they also currently only have one match planned - the return leg against Scotland - but Ellis believes more international matches should be played.
"For a start, we need to play against New Zealand next year," said Ellis. "When we beat them 9-8 on New Years Day 1908 in Aberdare, it was the first rugby league international ever in the world. When they tour next autumn, we should face them down here in Wales to celebrate. That would be icing on the cake in a potentially great centenary year for Welsh Rugby League should we qualify for the World Cup."
Wales' best ever year of rugby league was in 1995, where Ellis along with players like Allan Bateman, Keiron Cunningham, Jonathan Davies, John Devereux, Scott Gibbs, Mark Jones, Paul Moriarty, Rowland Philips, Scott Quinnell, Anthony Sullivan, Dai Young, a youthful Iestyn Harris and current Wales coach Martin Hall won the European Championship, reached the semi-finals of the World Cup and won BBC Wales' Team of the Year award. Including the two-match tour of the USA, Wales played seven games that year.
"We need more games on a regular basis like we did 11 years ago," said Ellis. "It's the only way we can gel as a team. England are having four games this month in this new Federation Shield. We need something like that to grow as a side to help us qualify and then prepare for the World Cup Finals in Australia in 2008."
TONGA and Fiji have both qualified for the 2008 rugby league World Cup after Tonga overcame Samoa 18-10 in the final match of the Oceania group at Headingley.
FEDERATION Shield matches from Headingley, 22nd October 2006.TongaFetuli Talanoa, ?Etuate (Tonga) Uaisele, Andrew Emilio, Lelea Paea, Tyrone Smith, (Ali) Feleti Mateo, Joel Taufa?ao, Fuifui Moimoi, Eliakim Uasi, Solomon Haumono, Lopini Paea, Richard Fa?aoso, William Topou. Interchange: Mickey Paea, Taniela Tuiaki, Sam Moa, Makasini Richter. SamoaTangi Ropati, Malofou Solomona, Miguel Start, George Carmont, Smith Samau, Rota Setu, Channarith Ly, Eward (Hutch) Maiava, Albert Talapeau, Shannon Stowers, Frank Winterstein, Gray Viane, McConkie Tauasa. Interchange: Chris Vaefaga, Peewee Moke, Junior Tia Kirifi, Conrad Ta?akimoeaka.Tonga 18 (Tuiaki, Haumono, Richter tries, Taufa?ao 3 goals) Samoa 10 (Ta?akimoeaka, Solomona tries, Ropati goal). Referee: S Ganson (England). Man of Match: Solomon Haumono.EnglandLee Smith, Mark Calderwood, Richard Whiting, Ashley Gibson, Danny Williams, Rob Purdham, Jamie Rooney, Ewan Dowes, Matt Diskin, Eorl Crabtree, Lee Radford, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Brett Ferres. Interchange: Chris Ashton, Nick Scruton, Matt Cook, Ryan Bailey. FranceRenaud Guigue, Olivier Charles, Damien Couturier, Teddy Sadaoui, Frederic Zitter, James Wynne, Julien Rinaldi, J?r?me Guisset, David Berthezene, Adel Fellous, Olivier Elima, Aurelien Cologni, Gregory Mounis. Interchange: Jamil Fakir, Jean-Christophe Borlin, S?bastien Raguin, Maxime Gr?s?que.England 26 (Smith, Calderwood 2, Rooney, Jones-Buchanan tries, Rooney 3 goals) France 10 (Wynne, Elima tries, Greseque goal). Referee: K Kirkpatrick (England). Man of Match: Jamie Rooney.Crowd (double header): 5,547.
FOLLOWING the Tonga v Samoa match held today at Headingley, Leeds, the final standings after the World Cup qualifiers in the Pacific Group are as follows:
GREAT Britain has punted on a new halfback combination for Saturday's Tri Nations Test against Australia.
GREAT Britain coach Brian Noble has tipped his hand adding halves Richard Horne and Iestyn Harris to his team for Saturday night's Tri Nations showdown with Australia at Wigan's JBB Stadium.