Rugby League: Britain lose three for Test series

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The Independent Online
Great Britain suffered a major blow yesterday when three of their leading players were ruled out of the Test series against Australia.

The Australian Rugby League has turned down a request to release Jason Robinson and Gary Connolly from their contracts in order to play for their country in the series next month. An ARL spokesman said: "It was felt inappropriate to allow the ARL contracted players to play against a team which refuses the claims of the ARL or its contracted players in Australia."

To make matters worse, their Wigan team-mate, Tony Smith, has not only been ruled out of his club's World Club Championship tie against Hunter Mariners tomorrow - a game Connolly will also miss - but also out of the Tests. He needs an operation on a knee injury.

As Shaun Edwards' move to Bradford was confirmed, London Broncos were putting their faith in a raw recruit as his replacement at scrum-half against Cronulla on Sunday. Giles Thomas, a 20-year-old from Worcester who was discovered playing rugby union sevens for Bromsgrove, will make his full debut in the WCC quarter- final.

"I've a lot of faith in him," the London coach, Tony Currie, said. "He has played consistently well in the reserve team. He's a tremendously tough kid." Thomas's job is made slightly less daunting by the absence of the Australian Test scrum-half, Paul Green, with a cracked sternum.

Edwards's predicted move to Bradford went through yesterday, with the Bulls paying London around pounds 40,000 after the player agreed a two-year contract. "I wanted to come back north and, when the champions come in for you, you take it as a compliment," he said. He is having a knee operation today but is confident of passing the medical that will finalise the deal. Like Smith, though, he is out of the Tests.

Clubs last night voted to accept the key proposals of the League's technical director, Joe Lydon, including reducing overseas quotas and imposing a limit of 25 full-time professionals.