League to demand proof of nationality

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The Independent Online

The other code of rugby has taken steps to ensure that it does not suffer the same embarrassment as the Welsh Rugby Union over players' national qualifications. Although more players than ever before will represent countries other than those of their birth in this autumn's World Cup, the game is confident that it can avoid a scandal similar to that experienced by Graham Henry's Kiwi Welshmen.

"We will insist on seeing documentary evidence," said the Rugby League's director of performance, Joe Lydon. "If you have a grandparent born in a particular country, we need to see the birth certificate."

Lydon said that would apply even to players who had already represented Ireland, Scotland or Wales through a parental or grandparental qualification. Among the first to be affected could be Bradford's Australian-born centre, Michael Withers, who has expressed a desire to play for Ireland, but will now have to prove his ancestry.

The Wigan stand-off, Tony Smith, has been suspended for one match after being placed on report for a reckless high tackle in the Challenge Cup defeat by Hull on Saturday. Smith will miss the home Super League fixture with Leeds on Sunday, for which the Wigan coach, Frank Endacott, has brought in Terry O'Connor in place of Brady Malam.

Endacott has defended the Australian centre, Steve Renouf, roundly criticised by supporters for his last two performances. "When we get more ball, we will see the real Steve Renouf," Endacott said.

Hull's captain, Tony Grimaldi, has recovered ahead of schedule from the neck injury which has kept him out of action so far this season. He could return for the game at home to St Helens on Friday night, as could two other forwards, Andrew Hick and Adam Maher.

The Huddersfield-Sheffield loose forward, Jeff Hardy, could be a contender for the vacant coaching role at Leigh after being recommended by Ian Millward, who has left to coach St Helens. Millward worked with Hardy during his spell at Illawarra.

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