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Bring it on say Brits
Some of British rugby league's biggest names have rubbished talk of player burnout and say they would relish the opportunity to take on the Kangaroos in Australia next season.
With the Rugby League International Federation still tossing up whether to play a Tri Nations series in 2005, Lions prop Stuart Fielden and halfback Sean Long have spoken out in support of a southern hemisphere tour.
The pair voiced their opinions only 24 hours after Australian coach Wayne Bennett called on English players to go public with their feelings on the future of international rugby league.
"I don't think it's the (Australian) players talking about the risk of burn-out, it's the clubs and coaches," Fielden said on Thursday.
"They play a lot less matches than we do. We don't feel too burned out so I don't see how they can be.
"It's been very disappointing to hear the comments that it might not be played next year. If you look at the attendances it's been a massive success and, from a player's point of view, we want to play it next year.
"Why wouldn't the players want it to go ahead again? The games have been tough and exciting and that's what everybody wants."
"It would be a great experience to play in Australia.
"I would relish the challenge. It would be good to go over there and win something."
Several NRL clubs have publicly questioned the workload placed on the game's elite and the RLIF will discuss their concerns before deciding whether to play the Tri Nations next season.
If they delay it until 2006, the tournament may be replaced by a shorter southern hemisphere tour in 2005 involving Great Britain and France.
"I think a lot of the players and coaches want it to go over there," Fielden said of the Tri Nations.
"The games (this year) have been tough, they have been exciting and the people have loved it. That's what rugby league is all about.
"It gives us the chance to meet Australia and their players on their terms. We want to show we can be quality in their backyards."
Neither Long nor Fielden have pleasant memories of their previous tours Down Under.
Long played in the 1999 Tri Nations in which Great Britain was comprehensively beaten by both Australia and New Zealand.
"We have a better team now," Long said.
"I am sure our lads will be up for it. A lot of people didn't think we were as good as what we are. Maybe we have opened a few eyes."
Fielden played in Sydney two years ago - a night which ranks among the darkest in Great Britain history.
The Lions were thrashed 64-10 by Australia at Aussie Stadium.
"It didn't leave me with happy memories," he said.