Tri-Nations may switch to Australia next year

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The Independent Online

The Tri-Nations could go into cold storage next season, despite the concept's huge success this autumn. The inaugural tournament will climax with a sell-out final between Great Britain and Australia at Elland Road on Saturday, but fears over players' workload are likely to rule out a repeat in 2005.

The Tri-Nations could go into cold storage next season, despite the concept's huge success this autumn. The inaugural tournament will climax with a sell-out final between Great Britain and Australia at Elland Road on Saturday, but fears over players' workload are likely to rule out a repeat in 2005.

The Australian Rugby League has consulted with senior players in the current party and it is known they would not welcome a repeat trip to England next year. That could, however, open the way for the tournament - or an Ashes series - to be played in Australia instead.

After yesterday's meeting of the International Federation, a statement insisted that "the Tri-Nations will be played again." It added, however, that venues, schedules and timings will not be announced until after a process of consultation.

The Federation agreed unanimously that the British referee, Russell Smith, should take charge of the final. Smith, named this week as International Referee of the Year, has won the appointment ahead of the New Zealander, Glen Black, who was criticised by both sides before and after their two previous meetings in the tournament. The decision marks the abandonment, at least for now, of the principle of neutral referees for internationals.

The Brisbane threequarter, Brent Tate, is in line to return to the Australian side for the final. Tate has lost his place to his Broncos team-mate, Shaun Berrigan, this season, but could reclaim it at his expense or that of Matt Sing on the wing. Ben Kennedy is also added to a 19-man squad, with Scott Hill left out. Wayne Bennett will name his side on Friday, but is confident that his captain, Darren Lockyer, will be fit to play at stand-off.

The Leeds hooker, Matt Diskin, will be out of action for six months for a knee reconstruction after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the victory over New Zealand on Saturday. "We're all bitterly disappointed for Matt, especially with the timing of the injury coming on his Great Britain debut," said the Rhinos' coach, Tony Smith, who might now be driven into the transfer market for a replacement hooker.

Hull have joined Leeds in pulling out of the chase to sign the Wakefield and Great Britain forward, Gareth Ellis. Hull have withdrawn their interest after having a cash-plus-players bid turned down. "We had an offer from Hull, but it wouldn't have satisfied the club's needs," said Trinity's chief executive, Diane Rogerson. "All our efforts now are being put into keeping Gareth at Wakefield." Ellis has resumed normal training with the Great Britain squad after injuring an ankle against New Zealand.

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