NRL CLUBS are set to block Sam Burgess, Gareth Ellis and Gareth Widdop from returning home to play for England in the inaugural Exiles clash.
A team of expat Australians and New Zealanders in Super League is to be assembled to take on Steve McNamara’s England at Headingley on June 10 in a replacement for the lopsided mid-season Test against France.
Wests Tigers’ Ellis has already expressed his desire to play in the historic match while South Sydney’s Burgess figures prominently in promotional material for the game, modelling the new England kit.
But Rabbitohs chief executive Shane Richardson tells RLW: “He won’t be going. It’s not an international, it’s an invented game, a trumped-up game.
“The trip home to play France last year had a detrimental effect on Sam which he acknowledged. We agreed he would not go this year and he was part of that decision. The fact that this game is not even an international makes things easier.”
It’s understood the Bunnies have already sought clarification from the NRL, who told them the International Federation could not intervene because England were not taking on a another country and the match was more like an Origin game which uses domestic players.
The Exiles clash has been the subject of an elaborate advertising campaign over the last month, with cloaked figures and the words “They’re Coming” displayed on video scoreboards and during Sky TV coverage.
Ellis – out with an ankle injury – told The People newspaper at the weekend: “To be part of the first one would be fantastic for myself.
“It would be brilliant because it’s a great concept. Last year when we played against France I was quite lucky that the Tigers had a bye and didn’t play until the following Monday. That gave me time to get back, and I’m not sure I’ll drop on it as well this time. But it would be fantastic to be part of such a momentous game.
“I don’t know what will happen yet especially with being injured, so I’ll just have to wait and see.”
But Wests Tigers official Warren McDonnell said: “We play the Warriors and Newcastle at the time the game was on so I would say we would not be keen – although we won’t know for sure until we know the details.”
Widdop is shining at five-eighth after switching from fullback during the off-season. He said he did not know if England would recall players. Storm football manager Frank Ponissi knew nothing about the fixture when contacted by League Week.
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK