Rugby World Cup: Hoppe will fight back after Kiwi Tri-Series omission

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The Independent Online
SEAN HOPPE hopes to use his stint at St Helens as a springboard to bounce back into the New Zealand team after being left out of their squad for next month's Tri-Series.

The Kiwi Test winger and record try-scorer was the notable omission from a 20-man panel announced yesterday. The Sydney City utility back, Richard Barnett, will captain the side against Australia and Great Britain in the absence through injury of Quentin Pongia and Jarrod McCracken.

Bradford's brothers-in-arms, Henry and Robbie Paul, are the only British- based players included, but Hoppe, preparing to play a role for Saints in their play-off against Castleford on Sunday, does not believe his Test career is necessarily over. "I'm not surprised, because there is a wealth of good wingers around," he said. "I don't think it's the end of international football for me at all."

The squad includes three members of the Melbourne Storm side that won the Australian Grand Final on Sunday, on top of the three already named by Australia this week.

"Even without Pongia and McCracken, it's a very strong squad," said Hoppe, who got his first taste of playing on the wing for Saints in the defeat by Bradford on Sunday, replacing Chris Smith after a series of mistakes.

Saints' coach, Ellery Hanley, gave no indication that Smith would be left out against Cas, however. "He was the first player to put his head around my door on Monday morning," he said. "That shows why I admire the guy as a totally professional player. If you dropped a player every time he made some mistakes, you'd finish up with no players." Nor is Hoppe building himself up for a starting role on Sunday. "I'm just glad to be involved," he said.

Rather less philosophical about his situation is the St George-Illawarra stand-off, Anthony Mundine, left out of Australia's squad despite some sensational form in their play-offs. He has been omitted, along with fellow Aboriginals David Peachey and Nathan Blacklock.

Mundine told Australian television that he had always dreamed of wearing the national jersey. "But as I grow older and see how Australian society runs, the aspirations of playing for Australia were no longer there," he said. "I've seen a lot of players that aren't there that should be there like Peachey and Blacklock. You know it's telling you something. You can put one and one together."

The ARL's chairman, Colin Love, said: "Such an allegation would be laughable were it not so serious and potentially damaging." Two of the selected players, Gorden Tallis and Wendell Sailor, are black Australians, and one of the selectors, Arthur Beetson, is Aboriginal.

Dewsbury have given their coach, Neil Kelly, a new three- year contract, despite their defeat by Hunslet in the Northern Ford Premiership Grand Final.