NRL clubs agree to release players for England-New Zealand Test
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 12/04/18 9:45am
NRL clubs are set to release players for the mid-season Test between England and New Zealand in Denver following clear-the-air talks in Australia.
Although the match on June 23 is being played during the international break and is sanctioned by the Rugby League International Federation, several NRL clubs had expressed their concerns over travel and medical issues associated with playing at the Mile High Stadium.
But New Zealand Rugby League chairman Reon Edwards says the match "is on track" after he managed to satisfy those concerns at a meeting with the 16 NRL clubs, NRL executives and the Rugby League Players' Association, which was also attended by RLIF chairman John Grant.
Edwards was accompanied by the Kiwis team management and the Rugby Football League's interim chief executive Ralph Rimmer addressed the meeting via telephone.
Edwards said: "By taking this RLIF-sanctioned Test match to Denver, we are breaking new ground for international rugby league.
"I am the first to admit the communication and information sharing with clubs could further improve, however all clubs have now been educated around NZRL's commitment to mitigate the risks associated with the Denver travel demands.
"We're looking forward to taking our Kiwi players to a new and exciting destination and giving the Americans a taste of international rugby league."
Kiwis team doctor Greg MacLeod and high performance coach Donny Singe presented a report on the player welfare and workload management that will be implemented in the lead-up to and during the trip to Colorado.
MacLeod said: "Our priority is to ensure we mitigate those risks associated with travelling long distances, a short turnaround and player workload.
"We have an extremely competent medical team and high performance staff and we're fully committed to making this tour a success."
The match is being organised by Australian promoter Jason Moore, who has acquired the rights to stage the 2025 Rugby League World Cup in the United States.
Former Leeds and New Zealand forward Ali Lauitiiti says the Denver Test is a chance to showcase rugby league to the American public.
Lauitiiti said: "Personally, I think it's a great initiative and it's worked for other sports so I'm keen to see rugby league do the same thing.
"It's our great game so I can't wait for the rest of the world to be blessed with it."
St George Illawarra say they were always prepared to release England regulars James Graham and Gareth Widdop and coach Wayne Bennett will now also be able to select South Sydney's Burgess brothers and Canberra forward Elliott Whitehead.
More importantly, the Kiwis will be able to pick from strength, with their squad expected to be drawn exclusively from NRL clubs.