Vainikolo out of NZ Squad - Noble
explains decision

Bradford Bulls' blockbusting winger Lesley Vainikolo has been ruled out of New Zealand?s Gillette Tri-Nations plans.

Vainikolo was due to link up with the Kiwis today following their arrival in London for Saturday's game against Great Britain but was instead having knee surgery.

The 26-year-old Vainikolo, who has scored 34 tries for the Bulls this year, was also prevented from playing against Great Britain in last year's tournament because he underwent knee surgery.

New Zealand, who also lost Canterbury Bulldogs winger Matt Utai before the series kicked off, have no plans to call up a replacement, which means rookies Jake Webster and Manu Vatuvei will keep the wing positions after making their debuts against Australia earlier this month.

"At this stage, we're fairly well covered," said New Zealand coach Brian McClennan. "We'll carry on with the squad that we have got and have a look at it later in the week."

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Bradford and Great Britain coach Brian Noble has defended his club?s decision to pull winger Lesley Vainikolo out of the New Zealand squad for the English leg of the Gillette Tri-Nations Series.

New Zealand are upset that Vainikolo has entered hospital for knee surgery. The 26-year-old, who scored 34 tries for the engage Super League champions this year despite missing 11 matches, was also prevented from playing against Great Britain in last year?s tournament because the club booked him in for post-season knee surgery.

Noble defended his dual role in the dispute at the first Great Britain press conference in Manchester following the squad?s return from a four-day training camp in Spain.

?It?s a club issue at Bradford and the fact is we lost him for too many weeks last year because he didn?t have the right procedures in the off season,? said Noble.

?He?s been carrying the injury for a few weeks and that?s why it was important to get it rectified.

?Anybody who knows me realises I push people to play international football, whether they?re Australians, New Zealanders or Brits. It?s as simple as that. If there was any possibility we could have allowed Lesley to play, he would have played.?

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