Rugby League stands by policy on hepatitis player

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The Independent Online

The Rugby League has defended its role in the Quentin Pongia affair, which has seen the Wigan prop continue playing despite suffering from hepatitis B.

The League has admitted being told about the case by Wigan in February, but gave their blessing for him to carry on playing. "We were given assurances by Wigan that his condition would not pose a danger to other players," a spokesman said. "The RFL's policy on blood-borne infections is in line with other major sporting organisations." Pongia was left out of Wigan's team at Wakefield after the story broke in a Sunday paper, but there is nothing in the League's statement to prevent him resuming his career.

Wigan could have lost another back to injury, with their young centre, Kevin Brown, cracking his tibia at Wakefield.

Another Wigan player, Mark Smith, will face a disciplinary hearing today on a charge of using a dangerous throw at Belle Vue. St Helens' Keith Mason has also been called up, accused of a high tackle on Warren Stevens during Saturday's match at Warrington.

England's best young players look likely to be denied the opportunity to tour New Zealand this autumn. England A had been due to make the trip, but now the Kiwis, who sent their own A team to Britain last autumn, have asked for the tour to be cancelled for financial reasons.

"It would be disappointing, but we are expecting a final response from New Zealand within the next 48 hours," David Waite, the League's performance director, said. "If they do not go to New Zealand, the England players will be added to the European Nations Cup and will go on tour to play Russia and France.