League offers huge World Cup bonus

Rugby League
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England and Wales have been offered a bonus of pounds 250,000 if they can win the Halifax Centenary World Cup next month, the largest cash prize the Rugby League has ever put up in any competition.

"The Centenary World Cup is the most important competition the game has ever staged and, as such, if either of Britain's two representative teams clinch victory they will fully deserve to secure the large bonus," said the tournament director, Maurice Lindsay.

The League is hopeful of attracting more than 30,000 spectators to Wembley for the tournament opener between England and Australia on 7 October. That might sound modest, but Lindsay says that it is in line with the targets set for the event.

Overall ticket sales for the tournament are approaching 100,000, and it seems that the most difficult thing will be to sit down to watch the rank outsiders, South Africa. All seat tickets have been sold for their match against Fiji at Keighley, and there are only a few left for their fixtures against Australia at Gateshead and England at Headingley. Western Samoa, grouped with Wales and France, will suffer a blow to their hopes if the St Helens forward, Vila Matautia, is suspended by a disciplinary hearing today.

Matautia, who is making a personal appearance to argue his case, was sent off against Warrington last week and, as Saints have no more matches before the World Cup, will have to serve any ban during the tournament. Samoa have already lost one key player through a serious eye injury to the Leeds prop, Esene Faimalo.

The Wigan hooker, Martin Hall, has been passed fit to play for Wales, while the Castleford centre, Adrian Flynn, has been cited over an incident which it was feared might put out the Welsh captain, Jonathan Davies. Flynn's team-mate, Colin Maskill, has been cited over another incident in the match.

Julian O'Neill, London Broncos' Australian international, has been sent home after less than two weeks at the club. O'Neill was arrested on an old drink-driving charge at Oldham last week.

Castleford could be close to landing the former Wigan stand-off Frano Botica on a two-year contract. Castleford have announced a news conference for tomorrow, leading to speculation that Botica will be joining the Wheldon Road club. Leeds are among other clubs thought to be interested in the 32-year-old former All Black who is on crutches after suffering a serious leg break playing for Auckland this summer.

Featherstone have signed the loose forward Richard Slater from Wakefield Trinity for a fee in the region of pounds 50,000.