Kiwi squad named next week

NZRL chairman Selwyn Pearson has rubbished suggestions that the en-mass defections from the Kiwis for the upcoming tri-series against Australia and Great Britain resulted from Daniel Anderson as coach.

There were very vocal suggestions yesterday that some Warriors were not keen to play under him in the Kiwis.

"It's totally untrue. There's still strong support for Daniel at the Warriors," Pearson said. "A number of Warriors are carrying injuries that need urgent attention and can't afford to leave it till after the tri-series. You'll find other Warriors like Francis Meli and Brent Webb will be in the Kiwis."

Melbourne Storm's Stephen Kearney and Richard Swain, and Warriors' Stacey Jones announced their international retirements yesterday.

Former Warrior Ali Lauiti'iti, now at English club Leeds, and current Warrior Awen Guttenbeil are not available, while five others require surgery.

Jones and Guttenbeil said they were disappointed with their form, while the five needing surgery are Monty Betham (arm), Sione Faumuina (shoulder), Clinton Toopi (thumb), Lance Hohaia (knee) and Jerome Ropati (ankle).

Faumuina, Guttenbeil and Betham said they had no problem with Anderson being the Kiwis coach, and said such suggestions were silly.

The Kiwis selectors are expected to name their train-on squad next week.

Second rower Lauiti'iti, who left the Warriors in April after a falling out, plans to see his in-laws in the United States after the English season ends.

Former Kiwis captain Hugh McGahan still believes some players have a problem with Anderson but do not wish to rock the boat.

"It seems all too coincidental that so many have retired or made themselves unavailable," McGahan said.

"It is farcical. It leaves the Kiwis short of players in key positions. The team could be a laughing stock."

McGahan was saddened legendary halfback Jones, 28, had decided to retire after 34 tests since 1995.

Though Jones said he was unavailable for the Kiwis' last test, in Sydney in April, McGahan maintained Jones withdrew to save the embarrassment of being dropped.

McGahan said after that Jones was never going to be play for the Kiwis while Anderson was coach.

A Warriors source said the need for the players to have surgery was genuine. The tri-series did not end till late November, and after operations the five would struggle to be ready for the start of the next NRL season.

Kearney, one game away from equalling Gary Freeman's record of 45 appearances for the Kiwis, said Anderson's involvement had no bearing on his decision. At 32 he said his form and aging body no longer warranted selection.

Anderson said the retirements left a big hole in his ranks, and they would be missed.