McClennan fears for international league's future

BEN STANLEY
Last updated 05:00 20/06/2012
James Tamou
Fairfax Media
JERSEY TUG: James Tamou pulls on a Kangaroos jersey in front of a media session in Sydney.

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It's the hottest issue in trans-Tasman rugby league – the selection of New Zealand-born players for State of Origin games.

Australian media reports have tipped Auckland-born Bulldogs prop Sam Kasiano, who played junior league for the Otahuhu Leopards before moving to Brisbane at 16, to be selected for the Queensland squad for game three of the Origin series.

While Kasiano, who had signed a letter of intent to play for New Zealand just two months ago, has yet to decide whether he will play for Queensland if selected, it is the second time this year a Kiwi-born player has been tempted by the lure of an Origin jumper.

Palmerston North-born Cowboys prop James Tamou made his Kangaroos debut in April so he could play for New South Wales.

The situation unsettles Warriors coach Brian McClennan.

The former Kiwis coach loves the history and theatre of State of Origin, but is worried the selection of New Zealand-born players will, ultimately, compromise the international game.

"We're heading into dangerous territory here," he said.

"For mine, protect international football. That is the pinnacle. We've got to protect that.

"I love the State of Origin, too. The theatre of it, the drama.

"It's a three-match series in the middle of the year – perfect timing. The history of it is amazing.

"To have that become the main event, it's just dangerous."

McClennan suggested the new ARL Commission should get involved to remedy the situation.

"They've been put in place to do a job here," he said.

"At the end of the day, their job and my job ... is to protect the game of rugby league and have that in the best interests of the game itself.

"Personally, I'm worried about it.

"This is dangerous territory, having players jump from [a] country so they can play in that Origin series. It's great theatre and we all enjoy it, but, gee, what's going to happen to international football?

"Are they going to pick English guys soon, as well? This is heading down the wrong track."

Meanwhile, several Warriors picked up knocks in their 20-19 loss to the Sharks in Sydney on Saturday, though Micheal Luck (knee) and Ben Matulino (sternum) look set to be fit for the club's next clash against the Cowboys at Mt Smart Stadium in a fortnight.

Hooker Nathan Friend, who has been on the sidelines with a broken jaw, also should return for the Cowboys game.

However, wing Manu Vatuvei, who was a late withdrawal from the Sharks match because of a knee injury, may still be in doubt.

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Vatuvei would be reassessed tomorrow, but McClennan said there was a small chance the giant wing would require surgery.

Another player in the wars is Warriors 2013 member Thomas Leuluai. He broke his leg in Sunday's Exiles versus England clash in St Helens. Leuluai, 27, will face 10 weeks on the sidelines.

McClennan said he should be fit to play for the Warriors.

"The good news is he's pretty confident he will be able to finish some games for Wigan," the Warriors coach said.

"That's what we're concerned about here. Next year is next year. We just want to see Tommy finish off what he has done for Wigan and he's been massive for that club."

- Fairfax Media

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