Great Britain have been presented with a demanding itinerary for this autumn's Tri-Nations in Australasia. The national side face a month of zig-zagging across the Tasman Sea, starting with a fixture against New Zealand in Christchurch on 28 October.
That is followed on succeeding Saturdays by Australia in Sydney, New Zealand in Wellington and Australia in Brisbane. The final, should Great Britain improve on last year by qualifying, is in Sydney on 25 November.
The Lions are also expected to play a warm-up match, in either Australia or New Zealand, on 21 October, just a week after the Super League Grand Final.
The itinerary is far from perfect from a British point of view, but the alternative, given Australia's recent record of reluctance in international matters, could have been the tournament not taking place at all.
The Great Britain coach, Brian Noble, was not complaining about the schedule yesterday. "It's a very exciting scenario and the confirmation of the dates and venues will only serve to sharpen the players' minds throughout the season," he said. "It's almost 10 years since Great Britain toured Australia and New Zealand. It's a fantastic opportunity for the British players."
Noble's next task will be to name a squad to prepare for a mid-season run-out against a Rest of the World side at the end of June.
One of the players who could figure in that game, Leeds' Australian forward, Mark O'Neill, starts his comeback this weekend after shoulder surgery. The former Wests Tigers captain has been named in Leeds' senior academy side to play at Hull.
Leeds say they have received no approach for Chev Walker from Wigan after their failure to sign Wakefield's David Solomona.