Australia to host next Tri-Nations

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The Independent Online

The game's International Federation has confirmed that next year's Tri-Nations will be held in the southern hemisphere as planned.

The 2006 tournament has been pencilled in for Australia, with the probability of some games being played in New Zealand, but there were fears that the plan could be under threat after Great Britain's failure to reach this year's final.

Before adjourning until this Friday, however, the member nations reiterated the blueprint for both the 2006 Tri-Nations and the 2008 World Cup, which is to be held in Australia to celebrate the centenary of the code there.

New Zealand are still hoping that their inspirational scrum-half Stacey Jones will be back in Britain for Saturday's final at Elland Road. Jones, who has already come out of international retirement three times this autumn, is in Auckland for the birth of his child later this week.

In theory, he could then get on to a plane and be back in England in time to play, although a Kiwi spokesman said last night that he was unaware of any plan for him to do so.

The New Zealand second-rower Frank Pritchard has been cleared of any brain injury after a blow to the head in last Friday's victory over France.

Australia's full-back, Anthony Minichiello, has been named the outstanding international player of the year. Minichiello was presented with the Golden Boot in Leeds last night after a string of impressive performances.

The Sydney Roosters player was also voted Back of the Year, with Britain's Stuart Fielden, who has called for a restructuring of the Tri-Nations timetable, named the world's best forward. Fielden claims that Great Britain "went in cold" after their southern hemisphere rivals had already played each other twice.

The Australians Wayne Bennett and Tim Mander won the awards for coach and referee. Kiwi Manu Vatuvei is Newcomer of the Year. The Australian Ben Kennedy has decided not to retire and will try to retain his Test place next season.

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