England want Roberts

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The Australian forward, Ian Roberts, has been approached to play for England in the Halifax Centenary World Cup next month, writes Dave Hadfield.

Roberts, born in London but capped 15 times by the country in which he has lived since childhood, is not in Australia's training squad for the tournament because he is aligned with Rupert Murdoch's Super League.

He has been approached by an English official, offering him the chance to play for the country of his birth. Roberts played 19 games for Wigan in 1986/87 and was invited to opt for a future as a British-qualified player.

He chose to return to Australia for a successful career with South Sydney, Manly, New South Wales and the national team, with whom he toured Britain last year.

The English interpretation of the World Cup rules is that players can choose to represent any country for which they qualify, even if they have already played for another. It is that which allows, for instance, players who have already represented New Zealand to play for Western Samoa in the tournament.

The executive chairman of the Australian Rugby League, Ken Arthurson, does not believe that the exemption should apply in Roberts' case, and there is an element of mischief-making in an English approach to a player excluded from the Australian squad by the continuing Super League-ARL power struggle in that country.