AUSTRALIA AND ENGLAND OPEN ON WINNING NOTE
The 2011 Gillette Four Nations tournament has kicked off with Australia and England both victorious in week one. Australia withstood a strong second half showing from New Zealand to record a 26-12 win at Warrington, while the English never looked truly troubled by a poor Wales outfit, winning 42-4 at Leigh Sports Village in Manchester.
Check out our match reports below:
Australia 26 defeated New Zealand 12
England 42 defeated Wales 4
ITALY QUALIFY FOR 2013 RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD CUP
A dramatic 19-all draw between Italy and Lebanon has seen the Italian Rugby League side qualify for the 2013 RLWC. While both sides fought hard, Italy's points differential saw them progress to be part of the tournament, to be held in the northern hemisphere, at the end of the 2013 domestic seasons.
Elsewhere, France had a walk in the park, defeating Scotland 44-10 overnight.
KNIGHTS TO HOST UNUSUAL 2012 NRL OPENER
The National Rugby League has revealed the first tidbits of information ahead of next week's season draw release, confirming the 2012 season opening match will take place on Thursday 1 March at Ausgrid Stadium, where new Newcastle Knights coach Wayne Bennett will host his former club St George Illawarra. The opening night being a Thursday is a change brought about by the earlier start to the NRL season, coupled with a cricket One Day International being held on the Friday night - for which Channel 9 also holds exclusive broadcast rights.
Other news on the fixture, to be released in the next seven days, is as follows:
- 2 fixtures on each of Good Friday (April 6) and ANZAC Day (Wednesday April 25), with one daytime fixture and one night-time fixture on both occasions. ANZAC Day will feature the two traditional clashes including the Dragons & Roosters, as well as the Storm hosting the Warriors.
- Stand-alone representative weekend between Rounds 7 and 8, on April 20, 21 and 22. Friday night will see the New Zealand-Australia Test in NZ, with a proposed Under 20's State of Origin clash on Saturday night in Western Sydney, before Mudgee hosts the annual Country v City Origin on Sunday.
- The 2012 State of Origin series will be held in three cities: Melbourne's Etihad Stadium (May 23), Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium (June 13) and the third match at Sydney's ANZ Stadium (Jul 4).
- The Grand Final will be played on Sunday 30 September, with the AFL Grand Final having taken place one day earlier on Saturday 29 September.
STRONG MEMBERSHIP RESULTS
With membership sales only just underway in October for many clubs, with South Sydney reporting 8,519 members to date after a month of sales, while the Bulldogs have accumulated 1,289 members in just five days since the packages were released.
Both sets of figures are promising and outstrip comparative figures from last year's membership drive. The Bulldogs managed a total of almost 14,500 members in 2012 while the Rabbitohs surpassed 20,000 for the first time.
While the Canterbury Bulldogs have confirmed they will return to Belmore for a pre-season trial against the Sydney Roosters in February (date to be confirmed), on the opposite side of the continent, the Cowboys and Dragons are set to meet at Perth's NIB Stadium on the weekend of February 11. The Dragons previously headed across the Nullarbor in 2010.
There are also strong rumours the Storm will host Brisbane in Hobart, Tasmania.
INJURY UPDATE: FOUR NATIONS
Willie Tonga has torn a pectoral muscle in Australia's victory at Warrington and will come home for treatment, taking no further part in the tournament. Chris Lawrence is set to switch sides of the field for the upcoming clash against England at Wembley on Sunday morning (Australian time), allowing Greg Inglis to seamlessly slot in. Should Inglis be unavailable, Bulldogs centre Josh Morris would come into the side.
David Shillington has escaped serious injury despite the Issac Luke "cannonball" tackle that seemed to cause some damage and is likely to be cleared to play next weekend, while Cooper Cronk suffered a broken nose. He is also likely to play next week despite the injury.
Stay tuned this week as we bring you all the team news and previews ahead of the Wembley double header in the second round of Four Nations games - as well as the 2012 NRL Season Draw when it released in the coming days. Keep up with all the action as it happens by following us on Twitter - click here.