Rugby League: Player ban threatened with legal challenge

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The Rugby League faces legal action if it refuses this afternoon to allow Martin Offiah and Paul Newlove to play for their clubs at the weekend.

Along with the injured Shaun Edwards, the two are barred from playing after pulling out of Great Britain's trip to the World Sevens in Sydney.

But the game's Council will be asked today to overrule that decision and allow Offiah to play for Wigan at Widnes on Friday night and Newlove to turn out for Bradford at Featherstone on Sunday.

If it refuses to do so, the two players' agent, Alan McColm, says: 'There will be an attack mounted through the courts.'

Bradford, fearful that Newlove could have a case for damages against them if he loses his playing wages on Sunday, will ask the Council to look again at the position.

Newlove withdrew from the trip because he and his wife and baby are moving house this week. Offiah decided on Sunday night that he could not fly out with the squad the following day because of an unresolved wrangle between club and country over insurance cover.

'The Council should ask itself whether it is justified in punishing Newlove for putting his family first,' McColm said. 'As far as Offiah is concerned, he was caught in the middle and has no case to answer.'

McColm said that Offiah had been brought 'close to tears' by the pressure he had been under -

including a phone call from the League's chief executive, Maurice Lindsay, in Australia telling him that he could face an international ban of between two and five years.

The League remains adamant that all three players have disqualified themselves from playing this weekend. One potentially hilarious aspect is that the referees in charge of the relevant matches have been told to check that they are not on the field.

Leeds hope to have Garry Schofield fit again for their televised Challenge Cup tie against Warrington a week on Saturday.

Ninian Park is to stage a rugby league international for the third time, when Wales meet France on 4 March. Vetch Field in Swansea has staged all five matches since the Welsh team was reformed, but the Cardiff City ground is back in use for the first time since Australia played there in 1982.