Tri-Nations opener set for Manchester

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The Independent Online

The city of Manchester Stadium will stage its first rugby league match this autumn when Great Britain play Australia in their opening game in the inaugural Tri-Nations tournament.

The city of Manchester Stadium will stage its first rugby league match this autumn when Great Britain play Australia in their opening game in the inaugural Tri-Nations tournament.

Manchester City's new home ground will be the venue for the first of the two matches between the old rivals on the 30 October. The other match will be at Wigan's JJB Stadium two weeks later.

Great Britain's two matches against New Zealand will be at the McAlpine Stadium in Huddersfield and the KC Stadium in Hull on 6 and 20 November respectively. The final of the tournament will be at Elland Road on 27 November - the first rugby league game to be staged there since 1997.

"It's a great sporting venue and has the required capacity and quality of facilities," said the Rugby League's executive chairman, Richard Lewis. "We're also delighted to be using the City of Manchester Stadium for the first time." Great Britain's recently appointed coach, Brian Noble, called the Tri-Nations: "A really exciting concept".

"No one is going to see better rugby talent anywhere in the world. I have a confidence in the Great Britain team that our time is near."

The Australian coach, Wayne Bennett, who is partly responsible for devising the new format, flew from Brisbane to lend his weight to the competition's launch in Kensington yesterday.

"I'm a believer in this tournament and in international football and I thought the best way of showing that was by my presence today," he said. Noble, who will be combining the Great Britain job with continuing to coach Bradford, expects to be able to announce his assistants in the next week and will name his first preparatory squad next month.

"It will be done strictly on form and if there's no Bradford players in the Great Britain team, so be it," he said, rather fancifully.

Widnes have proposed that Super League should be expanded to 14 teams to allow for the admission of the French club, Union Treiziste Catalane, for 2006. The existing clubs are poised to vote in favour of admitting the French club, to be renamed Perpignan, into the present 12-team competition when they meet next Wednesday.

But Widnes, one of the clubs who might feel themselves to be under threat of relegation in order to make way for the French, have suggested that the division be expanded, with all clubs taking a smaller slice of the money from Sky television.

Castleford are likely to give their loan signing from Widnes, Luke Robinson, his debut in the crunch match against Salford on Sunday.

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