France and PNG to join exodus

The game's international board begins its annual meeting in London today with France and Papua New Guinea set to go over to the Super League organisation that has effectively usurped its control.

The Australian Rugby League chief executive and international board director- general, Ken Arthurson, has flown in for the meeting resigned to the likelihood of the two countries' leagues becoming the next to jump ship, joining Great Britain and New Zealand in Rupert Murdoch's camp.

"It won't be long before France and PNG follow suit, because of the huge amounts of money being waved in front of them," Arthurson said. "There is no way we can match the sort of money being offered."

An even bigger worry for the ARL as it fights its increasingly desperate rearguard action against Murdoch's takeover is the fear that Australia's Country Rugby League is also set to cross over to the Super League. The loss of the major source of young players would be a devastating blow to the ARL in its efforts to retain control.

The international board will focus on the Centenary World Cup this October, to which the ARL is scheduled to send the side that will defend Australia's world title.

Arthurson, despite the inevitable feeling that he has been deserted by friends who could have shown more loyalty, has remained statesmanlike over the World Cup.

"I believe we owe it to the game to go ahead with our participation," he said. "Throughout this fight we have been talking about things like tradition and loyalty and honour. The event is about 100 years of the game's history. I believe we are honour bound to be part of that - and we will be."

On the domestic Super League battle front, Keighley Cougars will today celebrate the club record 104-4 victory over Highfield that brought them the Second Division Championship yesterday by launching their legal action against the Rugby League in pursuit of their claim to a place in the lite.

Rochdale Hornets are to start their attempt to block the Super League tomorrow, while Castleford, committed by a vote of their shareholders to going it alone rather than merging with Featherstone Rovers and Wakefield Trinity, begin their legal battle to do so.

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