Rugby League should go global according to Hetherington

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The Independent Online

Leeds' chief executive, Gary Hetherington, believes that the World Club Challenge should go global if it is to sustain its momentum as one of the season's major occasions.

Hetherington, whose side play the Melbourne Storm for the unofficial world championship on Friday night, says that the time is right to take the event around the world.

"There are plenty of cities around the world pining for a top-class international competition like this one," he said. "It could be Hong Kong, it could be Dubai, it might be neither of them."

Hetherington does not believe that rugby league administrators would run into the sort of opposition that the Premier League did when it announced plans for its infamous 39th fixture overseas.

"I don't think that would happen," he said. "I don't think English fans feel that they have a divine right to the game every year."

With ticket sales now around 30,000, Hetherington is appealing to other clubs' supporters to become Rhinos fans for the night and fill Elland Road to its 39,000 capacity.

He's also admitted for the first time that the Rhinos could be interested in the veteran New Zealand forward, Ruben Wiki, who wants to end his career in Super League.

"We wouldn't normally look at someone of 35 or 36, but he is a remarkable rugby player," he said.

Leeds named the 20-man squad for the game yesterday and their coach, Brian McClennan, says that he does not intend to produce any of the surprise selections that characterised his time as Kiwi Test coach.

"We've got a settled team and I'm happy with the squad and the way it is playing," he said.

Melbourne will also start with the predictable 13 on the field, with the standoff, Russell Aitken, the least familiar name.

In keeping with the policy of rotating the captaincy during the absence of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk will lead the side from scrum-half after Dallas Johnstone wore the captain's armband in the warm-up match at Halifax on Friday night.

There is no place in the starting line-up for the former Scotland rugby union winger, Ben MacDougall, but he could figure as one of the four substitutes.