RUGBY league officials ? and fans ? are taking more than a passing interest in the dispute over pay television coverage of the AFL. And in the case of the fans, it's a look of envy.
FORMER All Black Rugby International Jonah Lomu has decided against switching codes and joining the Jetstar Gold Coast Titans for their inaugural National Rugby League season in 2007.
THE Poms have landed and immediately set about making their presence felt. Dispatching a Newcastle Select XIII to the boundary must have made them feel pretty chuffed about themselves. And they got to let off a bit of steam as well, with Peacock and Wood both sin-binned for fighting. Fielden has also suggested that he?ll be smashing people left, right and centre.But as we head to Christchurch for Game III of the 2006 Tri-Nations, if I were a pale northern hemisphere lad, I would be a little cautious of my chances against the Kiwis.New Zealand played a good game last week and only let themselves down by giving away a head high tackle and a stupid penalty late in the game. Let?s face it ? no one could have stopped Inglis last week without the use of ballistic weapons and even then I?d give the Storm teenager half a chance.Kidwell did a good impression of a Bobble Head Doll in the aftermath of Gasnier?s try as he was standing behind the posts, venting his frustration for his country as the realisation of an opportunity gone begging sank in. I think this will provide some extra motivation for the Kiwi?s, who despite losing their first two games, are staging a valiant campaign to retain their title as World Champions.Paul Simpkins is the ref in this one after Ashley Klein ?controlled? the first two games.Let?s take a look at the teams, starting with the Brits?Great Britain: Paul Wellens, Brian Carney, Martin Gleeson, Keith Senior, Leon Pryce, Danny McGuire, Sean Long, Stuart Fielden, Terry Newton, Adrian Morley, Jamie Peacock (c), Gareth Ellis, Sean O'Loughlin, Interchange: James Roby, Garreth Carvell, Gareth Hock, Lee Gilmour18th man: Jon WilkinThis is a strong line-up but there are a few oddities amongst it, not the least of which is the selection of 3 Gareths! You?ve got Wellens at the back with Carney and Price on the wings. Gleeson is solid in the centres alongside Senior, who would have to consider himself a little lucky ahead of Yeaman.Long and McGuire in the halves offer some variety but the pack is where Great Britain will look to win the game.Fielden and Morley are two men that have plenty of weight to throw about. Morley is a seasoned NRL player who should be able to offer some experience to the rest of the squad about how the game is played down here. Fielden?s stature tends to suggest he?s a throwback from the Viking era when giants roamed the earth. He?s talked up a bit of a storm so hopefully he?ll deliver and we should see an absorbing clash in the forwards. For Australian fans, this is the man who destroyed the Wests Tigers in the World Club Challenge earlier in the year.The rest of the backrow is strong with Peacock and Ellis, but there is a bit of a mystery around O?Loughlin, with Wilkin the obvious choice for that position. The bench is strong though ? Roby?s a class act and Gilmour offers creativity. Carvell and Hock are pretty solid and should be able to combat the larger Kiwi forwards, even if they do look a bit short on props. Peacock?s versatility could be used here though, with a shift to prop on the cards at some point during the game.Moving onto the Kiwi?s, here?s the squad they?ve come up with?New Zealand: Brent Webb, Tame Tupou, Iosia Soliola, Nigel Vagana, Manu Vatuvei, Jerome Ropati, Stacey Jones, Ruben Wiki (c), Nathan Fien, Roy Asotasi, David Kidwell, Frank Pritchard, Simon ManneringInterchange: Motu Tony, Nathan Cayless, Jason Cayless, David Fa'alogo18th man: Adam BlairThere have been a few forced changes to the line-up that played in Melbourne last week. Hape, probably the standout in a well performed team, has succumbed to injury but a capable replacement in Tupou has been drafted in. Matai, also a strong performer, has picked up an injury as well opening the way for Vagana to switch to his preferred position of centre.As such Ropati gets to start at five-eighth which I?m happy about. I think he deserves a crack and it also settles down the hooker role with Fien starting and Tony on the bench who offers a bit of versatility.Next, Pritchard comes back into the squad after a strong performance in the curtain-raiser in Melbourne. He replaces Puletua who has pulled out of the series due to personal issues. I think this helps the Kiwis as Big T was struggling a bit. One thing that won?t help is Mannering though. I hope this guy can prove me wrong but right now he?s just not up to it. McClennan is showing incredible faith in him but he?s partly at fault also, moving him from lock to wing in the last game which didn?t help. But it really doesn?t matter what position you play, you need to be able to catch the ball.The rest of the forward pack is unchanged, but the bench has had a bit of a shake-up. I?m disappointed for Blair ? I think he?s been one of their best over the past two games. You can?t argue too much with his replacement (J Cayless) but I would have gone with Fa?alogo, Pritchard or Kidwell to start at lock, drop Mannering and have a bench of Tony, Blair and the two Cayless?s.The DecisionStraight up I favour a Kiwi victory here.I thought they were as polished as I?ve ever seen them last week. They played mistake-free footy for about 73 minutes before handing the game over in heart breaking circumstances. The Kiwis have had two games under their belt now and should be better drilled than their rivals.There are two psychological elements at work here though ? firstly the pressure on New Zealand to win considering they?re the reigning champs and at home; plus the ?unknown quantity? of Great Britain.New Zealand know how important it is for them to win this one. A loss would go a long way to snuffing out their chances of defending their crown and it would probably take a bit of interest out of the series. As much as Aussie?s like giving it to Kiwis and Poms, we enjoy it more when they are competitive and last year?s final re-invigorated the International game.As for Great Britain, well I think they just need to get out onto the paddock and try to find some rhythm. It?s one thing to smash a Newcastle XIII but it?s a whole different story to try and defeat an entire nation.I really hope the Poms can get it together and play some constructive footy. Long?s passing and kicking game will need to be spot on and their forwards will have to work hard against a pack that have so far given the Aussie?s a bit of a touch-up.But I just can?t see them getting past New Zealand here. I think the Kiwis will be desperate for this one and will get the chocolates, but the return game in Wellington will be an entirely different story. There?s never been a better time for Kiwi?s to get out to the game and support their country, and with reports that the ticket sales in Christchurch have been a little bit slow, I don?t think it will be much trouble finding a seat.
TOUR match held on 25 October 2006 at Derwent Park, Whitehaven.Cumbria 28 (Gardner, Sice, Calvert, Finch tries, Rudd 6 goals) defeated Tonga 16 (Koloi, Mateo, Makisi tries, Mateo 2 goals). Attendance: 1,639. Weather: heavy rain. Half-time Cumbria 20-12. Cumbria: Wilson, Calvert, Eilbeck, Harrison, Gardner, Rudd, Finch, Jackson, Mattinson, Vaughan, Whitehead, McDermott, McAvoy. Replacements: Sice, Burgess, Beaumont, HillTonga: Sinisa, Richer, Makisi, Pangai, Koloi, Mateo, Foliaki, Cocker, Fukofuka, Moa, Falemaka, Moimoi, Faaoso. Replacements: Hansen, Kingi, Halepio, Liku. (Martin Marsella injured an ankle in training.)Source: http://www.timesandstar.co.uk/sport/viewarticle.aspx?id=427646
THE rugby league World Club Challenge will go ahead between St Helens and the Broncos in England on February 23.
WALES are hoping for their biggest international rugby league attendance in four years when they face Scotland in their first World Cup qualifying match at the Brewery Field in Bridgend on Sunday (kick-off 3pm).
ENGLAND play Tonga at 3pm at the Twickenham Stoop on Sunday 29th October, in the second round of the Federation Shield.
THE Atlantic Group qualifying for the Rugby League World Cup comes down to one game this Saturday, when the USA Tomahawks take on the Japan Samurais with the winner progressing to next year?s repecharge round to decide the remaining tenth spot in the 2008 World Cup finals.
LEBANON and Russia meet on neutral soil on Saturday in London to play the latest game in the European Group qualifiers for the 2008 World Cup Finals. This Lebanon home game was transferred due to recent hostilities in that country and will be played at 1:00pm at New River Stadium, home of National League Two team London Skolars. The return match will be hosted by Russia in October 2007.
AN international friendly is being played in Athens this Saturday between Greece and Serbia. This will be the first international Rugby League game to be played in Greece, with hopes that it will boost popularity and interest for a regular domestic rugby league competition to run in Athens.Trials were held in Athens for Greek players on Saturday, and players from Australia, England & South Africa will also be representing for the Greek team. John Skandalis has been in Greece to promote the game however he will not be playing for the team this time, but several of the players from Greece?s recent game against Fiji in Sydney will be linking up with the domestic players.The Serbian side is mixture of experienced players who have played for Serbia in the Euro B Nations Cup and World Cup Qualifiers, as well as the best young players who played in the Under-19s European Nations Cup earlier this year. There are a few debutants, and some more new players were due to attend training with the squad before the Serbians left for Athens.The Serbian squad left Belgrade on Thursday and will arrive in Athens on Friday morning. The Serbian warm-up squad was named as follows:1. Ivan Antic2. Ivan Mitic3. Milan Djordjevic4. Mate Granic5. Zoran Pesic6. Marko Zebeljan7. Nenad Grbic8. Igor Minevski9. Mario Milosavljevic10. Dalibor Vukanovic11. Soni Radovanovic12. Nenad Tomic13. Milos Kucancanin14. Branko Vojvodic15. Radoslav Novakovic16. Nemanja Babic17. Jovan Vujosevic18. Haris Dajc19. Dimitris DajcCoach: Marko JankovicCoach Assistant: Jovan VujosevicThanks to members of the International section of the Front Row Forum at http://forums.leagueunlimited.com/ for information regarding this match.
IN horrendous weather conditions in England's North West last night, the Cumbrian regional side recorded a 28-16 victory over a below-strength Tonga side at Derwent Park.
THE 2007 World Club Challenge has been moved back three weeks and will now take place in England on 23 February.
REGIONAL Queensland rugby league fans are being urged by Sport Minister Andrew Fraser to support a push to have the NRL final restored to its traditional Sunday afternoon timeslot.Mr Fraser says a petition calling for the Sunday final that he launched with the Brisbane Broncos club ?will get a big kick-along if passionate regional fans support it.??Winning the grand final was fantastic for the Broncos, but it would have been even better if the match had been staged on the Sunday afternoon,? Mr Fraser said today.?That?s why we launched the petition. It?s a Queensland tradition to have a barbie and watch the match in the afternoon and then kick the footy around with the kids in the back yard.?That tradition shouldn?t be being forsaken just so the match can be televised in a night-time slot because of pure commercial considerations.?The petition to State Parliament, launched in Brisbane, is rapidly gaining momentum, Mr Fraser said.?I encourage everyone who has an interest in the game and in this great Sunday afternoon institution to get behind this push and lobby the NRL. ?Next year this might affect the Cowboys, so it?s a great idea for their fans in the North ? as well as regional Broncos fans ? to have their say on this issue.?If the Cowboys play off in the grand final, their fans who go to Sydney will have to take a day off work on the Monday to get home, unlike Sydney club supporters who have a public holiday that day.?The petition is an online one that you access through the Queensland Parliament website. The more people who sign, the louder our collective protest will be,? Mr Fraser said.Launching the petition, Broncos CEO Bruno Cullen said the grand final needed to revert to an afternoon timeslot to allow for family viewing, with an emphasis on children.Mr Cullen said the current Sunday night final arrangement was hardly family-friendly, because Queenslanders had to go to work the next day, unlike people in New South Wales where there was a public holiday on the Monday.NRL grand finals have been held on Sunday nights since 2001.The website address for Parliament petitions is: http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au (then click on Legislative Assembly and Petitions)
CUMBRIA coach Paul Crarey reckons he has the team to turn over the Tongans in tomorrow night?s clash at Derwent Park (kick-off 7.30pm).
FORMER All Blacks star Jonah Lomu has been given until Sunday night to decide whether he'll switch codes and join the Gold Coast Titans.