Rugby League: Australia threaten tour boycotts

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AUSTRALIA are threatening to boycott Wigan, Widnes and Warrington on next year's Kangaroo tour in reprisal for the three clubs' role in the British absence from the World Sevens in Sydney next week.

Ken Arthurson, the chairman of the Australian Rugby League, said the withdrawal of Wales, under pressure from Warrington and Widnes, was 'extremely regrettable. The next Kangaroo tour is only a year away and I think we are going to have to look at our itinerary very closely as far as playing Widnes, Warrington and Wigan is concerned.'

Wigan were expelled by the organisers for naming a weakened squad and if they become British champions again, Arthurson indicated Australia will reconsider whether to play them in the World Club Championship.

Arthurson stressed that the ARL stood to make nothing out of the Sevens. 'It is a goodwill event for the development of the game internationally, but these three clubs seem to be singularly lacking in goodwill.

'We have no qualms over the way that the English Rugby League has conducted itself, but these three clubs should remember that it is a two-way street when they next need us.'

Despite the Australian threat, it is difficult to imagine a Kangaroo tour without a game against Wigan. Apart from Test matches, it would be the most lucrative, and, with receipts evenly split, Australia would have to take a serious financial loss in order to make their point.

Widnes and Warrington are likely to have tour fixtures in 1994 when the Rugby League draws up the itinerary, it then has to present to the Australians. Ironically, they were the last club sides to beat the Kangaroos, defeating them in 1978.

There is a precedent for clubs losing their right to a tour fixture. In 1990 Bradford Northern were deprived of a match against the Kangaroos as a punishment for fielding a weakened side in the short-lived British Coal Nines.

The Rugby League's public affairs executive, David Howes, said: 'With the planning of the 1994 tour not due to be discussed until the end of the season, we prefer not to make any further comment at this stage.'