Rugby League: Wales added to Kiwis' itinerary

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THE New Zealand tour later this year will begin with an extra international against Wales on 3 October.

Vetch Field in Swansea, the scene of well-supported matches against Papua New Guinea, France and England since the national side was reformed 18 months ago, has again been earmarked as the venue.

The Kiwis are also to play Great Britain Under-21s at Workington - a welcome gesture of encouragement for the game in Cumbria. The other matches will be against the clubs which finish in the top six of the First Division at the end of this season.

That provides an extra incentive for sides to finish the season strongly and ensures that the Kiwis will face a highly competitive itinerary.

The Rugby League has already demonstrated its faith in the strength and crowd-pulling potential of the tourists by booking Wembley for the first of the three Tests on 16 October.

The League's chief executive, Maurice Lindsay, yesterday issued a rallying call to those who have complained about the expense - to both the game and its fans - of staging another event in the capital.

'We need a platform to continue to show people how good the game is, otherwise we can resign ourselves to being a parochial, backwater sport,' he said.

Money will be set aside to promote the match in the south of England, he said, even if no sponsor has been found to take over the backing of the Great Britain team from British Coal, whose contract ends this season.

Lindsay and Barla's negotiator, Peter Moran, are at the point of exchanging final documents giving their views on how the long-running feud between the professional and amateur arms of the game can be resolved. Further progress depends on the two men agreeing upon a joint strategy to be put to the two governing bodies.

Wigan will have their captain, Dean Bell, at loose-forward again for their Challenge Cup quarter-final at Halifax on Sunday.

Widnes, who play Hull KR, have turned down an offer from Sheffield Eagles for their transfer-listed loose-forward, Les Holliday.