Noble defiant as Kiwi anger grows over Vainikolo's pull-out

Click to follow
The Independent Online

"What we needed was a chance for our doctor to assess the injury, so that there is no dispute between New Zealand and the club," said the Kiwi coach, Brian McClennan.

"He could have waited one day. Les probably does need surgery but, if we had been able to look at it, it would have removed any assumption of unfair play on Bradford's part."

Kiwi suspicions have been fed by the fact that Brian Noble coaches both Great Britain and Bradford, but he strongly denied that the decision was made to help the Lions' chances.

"I would be infuriated by any suggestion that I would do that," he said. "It's a club issue. We lost him for too many weeks this year because he didn't have the right procedures in the off-season. I always push our players to play international football for whatever country, but he needed the operation."

However, there is better news for the Kiwis over Jones, the master half-back who was thought to be coming out of international retirement for only the southern hemisphere leg of the tournament.

Jones is now on his way to Europe to link up with Les Catalans, for whom he will play in Super League next season, but they appear willing to let him play against Great Britain this Saturday.

"His French club have been very good in letting him play in the first two games and there's a good chance he's going to play at Loftus Road," McClennan said.

No such luck for Johns, the one player rated ahead of Jones as a Test scrum-half. He aggravated an old knee injury in the 28-26 defeat of the Kiwis last Friday and has been forced to withdraw from the rest of the tournament.

"It's been great to be in the Australian team again," said Johns, who spent the latter stages of the English season with Warrington. "But the injury isn't one I can overcome in a couple of weeks."

Noble said that he had a full squad to choose from for Saturday, with his captain, Jamie Peacock, fully recovered from a potentially horrifying injury.

Peacock was kicked in the testicles in the Grand Final match 10 days ago. "The worst-case scenario was that one would have to be removed, but thankfully that wasn't the case," he said.

Huddersfield will today announce the signing of Robbie Paul from Bradford, who have confirmed that Marcus Bai is joining them from Leeds.