Tour policy risks alienating young

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The Independent Online

The Rugby League's executive chairman, Richard Lewis, has admitted that the game risks alienating its best and brightest young players by failing to offer them the prospect of touring the southern hemisphere.

A recent meeting of the International Federation in Sydney decided that, after this year's Ashes series in Britain, the future calendar will consist of three years of a Tri-Nations tournament involving Australia and New Zealand but all played in this country.

That means that it will be 2007 at the earliest before any aspiring young player can hope for a trip Down Under. The greater travel opportunities in rugby union clearly contributed to the decision of players like Jason Robinson and Iestyn Harris to switch codes.

"It isn't ideal,'' admitted Lewis. "But we are trying to build up the international game and, when we build it up, there will be more trips abroad. The Tri-Nations can grow into tours overseas and into a World Cup.''

Lewis remains bullish about the chances of striking new television deals with Sky and the BBC, with whom the League has a verbal agreement covering the Challenge Cup and internationals.

Bradford face a stand-off crisis for their top-of-the-table fixture at Leeds tomorrow night. Leon Pryce and Chris Bridge are out with sternum and calf damage respectively, while Robbie Paul and Karl Pratt have long-term injuries.

Jamie Thackray will miss the rest of Castleford's campaign after breaking his arm for the second time this season.

Wigan will lose Adrian Lam for three weeks with an ankle injury, but Danny Sculthorpe is back to face Halifax on Sunday.

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