NRL stars will benefit international game, says Lockyer

 

Australia legend Darren Lockyer says getting NRL players to play for the developing nations at next year’s World Cup will benefit rugby league.

The likes of Italy, Fiji and Tonga are all scouring the professional leagues to find eligible players willing to don their colours at next autumn’s tournament in the northern hemisphere.

He said: “Those developing nations at the moment need all the support they can get and if we can get the services of some NRL players, that’s only going to benefit them.

“Once they get a black and white picture around eligibility for Origin, that will be a good thing for the game. But when we’re trying to develop countries like Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Wales, all those countries … I think having these players who have had NRL experience but can’t represent Australia … well in this point in time, it’s the right thing to do to allow those guys to play for other countries.

“Once those countries get a foundation and become a lot stronger, then we should look at altering the rules. But at this point in time, we need to make as many nations as we can competitive against the so-called Big Three.

“We’ve got to face the facts that our game, at an international level, has still got a long way to go. We need to put things in place where we can get it to a point where we don’t have to have these issues.

“At the moment, eligibility rules are relaxed in a World Cup year. That’s the right thing to do.”

Lockyer is currently in the UK as part of his role as the Australian Rugby League Commission’s ambassador for international rugby league.

He retired after guiding the Kangaroos to Four Nations glory last autumn, capping a fine career in which he won 63 international caps.

Italy have already expressed their desire to link up the likes of Terry Campese and Shaun Berrigan with former Australia international Craig Gower in their line-up.

Other former Kangaroos, Petero Civoniceva and Lote Tuqiri, have also expressed an interest in representing Fiji.

 

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