THREE St Helens players have been named in the inaugural Exiles squad to take on England in the first ever ‘International Origin Match’ at Headingley Carnegie Stadium on Friday June 10, kick off 8pm.
Francis Meli, Tony Puletua and Iosia Soliola are named in the initial Exiles squad, a team made up of the cream of overseas talent drawn from the Engage Super League.
Former Leeds Rhinos and New Zealand coach Brian McClennan has been appointed as the first ever coach of The Exiles and along with his assistant, Castleford Tigers’ head coach Terry Matterson, has named an initial 34-man squad.
In a unique concept to British sport, the 34-strong squad will be reduced to 22, in part by public selection. This will mark the first time in UK sporting history that the public will actually be able to choose a team, with fans having the chance to select 13 of the 22 squad members to face England. The remaining nine selections will made by the Exiles coaching staff.
New Zealand-born McClennan, who coached Leeds to two successive Engage Super League Grand Final victories and the Kiwis to a famous Tri Nations final victory over Australia in 2005, has appointed his captain and vice captain and is also looking forward to being part of Rugby League’s latest venture.
“It is a great honour to be appointed as the first coach of the Exiles team,” said McClennan. “I am also pleased to announce that I have selected Leeds Rhinos’ Australian hooker Danny Buderus as my captain and Wigan Warriors and New Zealand international Thomas Leuluai as vice captain.
“The International Origin Match is a fabulous concept for English Rugby League. It is going to be a fantastic match featuring the best players in the Engage Super League. The RFL should be applauded for showing great ingenuity by creating such a marquee fixture between England and The Exiles.
“The match will serve as perfect preparation ahead of this autumn’s Four Nations tournament, when we hope England will be a match for current holders New Zealand and old adversaries Australia.”
From today, fans can log on to www.internationalorigin.com and select their ideal 13 to take on England. Supporters can only pick a maximum of three players from any club. The voting process will remain open until midnight (BST) on Thursday April 21 2011.
Fans making their selection will also receive a discount voucher entitling them to £5 off an adult match ticket.
“We are not afraid to try new initiatives in Rugby League and this unique concept will get the fans closer to the action,” said the RFL’s Chief Executive Nigel Wood.
“Rugby League fans are passionate about their sport and there’s plenty of knowledge out there to pick a great team to face England.
“The International Origin Match is long overdue. I am particularly looking forward to seeing the internal club rivalry come to the fore when team-mates at clubs will go head-to-head against each other on the pitch. I have no doubt that the fans and the sport’s stakeholders will welcome this new concept to Rugby League, which I’m sure will come part of the sporting calendar for years to come.”
Today’s announcement comes on the back of a four-week ‘teaser campaign’ which has seen the arrival of The Exiles heralded with brooding imagery featuring mysterious hooded figures and the slogan ‘They’re Coming’. The campaign concluded earlier this week with England players Kevin Sinfield and Sean O’Loughlin fronting posters beneath the words ‘We’re Waiting.’
Details of the full 34-man Exiles squad are below:
Danny Buderus (captain) (Leeds Rhinos & Australia), Thomas Leuluai (vice captain) (Wigan Warriors & New Zealand), Louis Anderson (Warrington Wolves & New Zealand), George Carmont (Wigan Warriors & New Zealand), Ray Cashmere (Salford City Reds & Australia), Rangi Chase (Castleford Tigers & New Zealand), David Fa’alogo (Huddersfield Giants & New Zealand), David Faiumu (Huddersfield Giants & New Zealand), Brett Finch (Wigan Warriors & Australia), Craig Fitzgibbon (Hull FC & Australia), Ben Galea (Hull KR & Australia), Brett Hodgson (Warrington Wolves & Australia), Ryan Hoffman (Wigan Warriors & Australia), David Howell (Harlequins RL & Australia), Brett Kearney (Bradford Bulls & Australia), Matt King (Warrington Wolves & Australia), Kylie Leuluai (Leeds Rhinos & New Zealand), Jeff Lima (Wigan Warriors & New Zealand), Willie Mason (Hull KR & Australia), Francis Meli (St Helens & New Zealand), Steve Menzies (Catalan Dragons & Australia), Joel Monaghan (Warrington Wolves & Australia), Michael Monaghan (Warrington Wolves & Australia), Glenn Morrison (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats & Australia), Clint Newton (Hull KR & Australia), Luke O’Donnell (Huddersfield Giants & Australia), Mark O’Meley (Hull FC & Australia), Tony Puletua (St Helens & New Zealand), Pat Richards (Wigan Warriors & Australia), Amos Roberts (Wigan Warriors & Australia), Jarrod Sammut (Crusaders & Australia), Iosia Soliola (St Helens & New Zealand), Michael Vella (Hull KR & Australia), Brent Webb (Leeds Rhinos & New Zealand).
Pre-purchased tickets for the International Origin match start from £19 for adults and £12 for concessions and are available at www.rugbyleaguetickets.co.uk or by contacting the RFL Ticket Office on 0844 856 1113. Tickets purchased on the day of the match start from £22 for adults and £15 for concessions.