Coach accused of bias after Tuqiri given start

Lote Tuqiri has become the first Australian rugby league international to return from union and be capped again by being named to play against Papua New Guinea in the Four Nations tomorrow in which England took on New Zealand early this morning.

Tuqiri, the Wests Tigers wingman, kicked out by the ARU in controversial circumstances last year, has been preferred on the left flank to St George-Illawarra's Darius Boyd. That has forced the Australian coach, Tim Sheens, who also coaches the Tigers, to angrily refute charges of favouritism. Tuqiri was not in the original squad and was only drafted in when Jarryd Hayne was ruled out with a hamstring injury.

"There is no way in the world I would do that," he said of the suggestions of bias. "I don't want to sit here justifying why I pick players or don't pick players."

The others Sheens has picked include Cooper Cronk of Melbourne at scrum-half for the injured Johnathan Thurston, two recalled centres in Brent Tate and Willie Tonga and a debutant prop in the Sydney Roosters' Nate Miles.

Australia are expected to win handsomely in Parramatta, but one of the Kangaroos forwards, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, has warned that PNG are improving rapidly.

"The progress they have made in three years is phenomenal," he said. Others in the squad have said, rather less flatteringly, that they expect the Kumuls to try to intimidate them.

They have only one NRL player, in their captain, Paul Aiton, but their coach, Stanley Gene, has called upon five based in Britain – Sheffield's Menzie Yere, Makali Aizue of Halifax and the Hunslet pair, Michael Mark and Charlie Wabo.

Harlequins have signed the Manly back-row forward, Chris Bailey, on a one-season deal. Bailey is the younger brother of Phil Bailey, who is moving from Wigan to Salford this winter. Quins are also expected to take as many as four of Wigan's crop of young players on loan.

Wakefield's hopes of securing a Super League license for the 2012 season have been boosted after the club received outline planning permission to build a new stadium. The Wildcats had billed this morning's hearing at Wakefield County Hall as one of the biggest moments in their history, and coach John Kear and a number of his players were present to hear a unanimous verdict delivered in favour of their proposed development at Newmarket, Stanley.

Although the approval is still subject to the removal of a direction by the Highways Agency concerning travel plans and the possibility of a public inquiry, yesterday's news means Wakefield can submit a stronger case for a new three-year licence than if their application had been turned down.

"This is fantastic news and is the biggest day in the club's modern history," said chief executive James Elston. "We are aware that we have some boxes to tick but now we can move onwards and upwards. I would like to thank all supporters, players and staff who spent three hours outside showing their support for the club and also to Wakefield Council." The council's decision to grant outline planning permission also means that the club will get an immediate financial boost. The club have an outstanding tax bill of £164,000 and an anonymous backer came forward yesterday offering to pay the amount in full if the stadium plans were given the green light.

Wakefield's local rivals Castleford are also developing a site of their own at Glasshoughton, just two junctions along the M62.


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