New Zealand “working with” NRL to get players for mid-season test, as they hunt for new coach

New Zealand chairman Reon Edwards says they are working with NRL clubs to get the “best possible” team on the pitch to face England in Denver in June.

The NRL is fighting to force the cancellation of the test match, with Australian press reporting that a letter has been written to England and New Zealand detailing a number of concerns, relating to player health and safety.

That would indicate that the NRL would refuse to release players, which includes the likes of James Graham, Sam Burgess and Gareth Widdop for England.

Edwards said: “The test has been scheduled in the internationally agreed window, so we’re now just working with the clubs in Australia to ensure we put the best possible team on the field.”

With the World Cup due to be held in North America in 2025, this is seen as the first real opportunity to raise awareness of rugby league.

Another option could be for the game to go ahead with just Super League players representing both nations.

Meanwhile, A four-person panel has began the process to find the next New Zealand coach.

David Kidwell left the position after just a year in charge following an embarrassing World Cup, where they were beaten by Tonga, to become the first tier-1 nation to lose to a tier-2 nation in a World Cup match, before they were dumped out in  the quarter-finals by Fiji.

Led by Kiwi and Wigan legend Dean Bell, the panel also includes former Wigan and Widnes coach Frank Endacott and ex-Wakefield player Monty Betham.

They are joined by former Silver Fern Kiwi netball player Waimarama Taumaunu, who has also previously worked as national performance director for All England Netball, and a recruitment specialist.

Bell, who won the Man of Steel in 1992, said: “With the depth of rugby league talent the Kiwis have at their disposal, we should be challenging the best international sides, including Australia, and achieving consistent success.

“I’ve already spoken with other members of the panel and as a group we’re determined to support the NZRL in moving on from the issues raised in the review of the last World Cup campaign,” he says. “We need to make sure that test football is given the status it deserves.”

Applications for the position close on April 6, with the first game for the new coach set to be the groundbreaking test match against England in Denver on June 23.

Later in the year, the Kiwis play a home test against Australia before a tour of England and France in October and November.

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