St Helens have vehemently denied signing the Kangaroo forward Petero Civoniceva for next season. Saints, who struggled for forward power last season, have been reported as having secured the Brisbane Broncos prop or second-rower on a one-year contract.
Civoniceva, who played as a substitute in all three Ashes Tests this month, would be a significant signing, but Saints are adamant the player has not even been approached.
"Neither Ian Millward nor anyone else connected with the club has been in touch with Petero and no offer has been made to him," the Saints' chairman, Eamonn McManus, said. "We are mystified as to where the story has come from."
Civoniceva has returned to Australia, where he is still under contract with the Broncos. The Saints' coach, Millward, is also in Australia having used the rugby union World Cup as an opportunity to scout for talent for the club from the South Pacific nations.
Civoniceva's Brisbane and Australia team-mate, Darren Lockyer, has won the Golden Boot for the game's outstanding player in 2003. Lockyer was third choice to captain the Kangaroos on their European tour but his status has risen during their 3-0 victory over Great Britain.
There will be no Origin Game between Lancashire and Yorkshire next year. The tradition of Roses matches was revived in 2001, with the format increased to two matches the following year and back to one this season.
The Great Britain coach, David Waite, regarded the matches as an important way of blooding potential international candidates, but they have been scrapped because clubs are reluctant to release their players.