Exiles given 'X Factor' makeover as fans pick team

Click to follow
The Independent Online

If fans find themselves uninspired by the Exiles team that takes the field against England in June, they will have themselves to blame. The side that will be on duty at Headingley for the inaugural International Origin Match will be selected from the best overseas players in Super League partly by supporters' votes.

The innovation is one of a number of features that the Rugby League hopes will help the event to capture the imagination as well as give the national side a rigorous mid-season workout.

Needless to say, it is not straightforward. The first phase was the selection of the former Leeds coach Brian McClennan to be in charge of the team, assisted by Castleford's Terry Matterson. Those two have reduced the 95 eligible players to a more manageable 34 and have decided on Leeds' Danny Buderus as captain and Thomas Leuluai of Wigan as vice-captain.

The coaches will also select seven other players, with the other 13 to be chosen by the public. McClennan will eventually reduce that to an 18-man squad, with a limit of three from one club, in time for the 10 June match.

"Whoever gets picked, it will be a formidable team," Leuluai said. "There's a buzz of anticipation and I'm excited by being involved." Matterson called it "something people won't want to miss. It will be one of the best matches of the season.

The game replaces the mid-season Test against France, which has not stretched England in the slightest over the last couple of seasons.

"It's just what I wanted for England," said the national coach, Steve McNamara. "It will give us an intense game that will put players under pressure and prepare them for the Four Nations."

* The Hull coach, Richard Agar, has been charged with breaching the RFL’s Respect policy with his criticism of the referee James Child after his side’s 20-18 home defeat by Castleford last Friday.