Chester Butler, of Halifax, and Salford Red Devils’ 2017 Rugby League World Cup Gavin Bennion are called up, having not had spots in Wales’ training squad in July.Josh Ralph, of Tweed Head Seagulls in Queensland, also comes in.Two of the sport’s rising stars, Port Talbot-born St Helens wing Regan Grace, 20, and team-mate Morgan Knowles, 20, will also head down under.
Ben Evans and Matty Seamark return for the first time since the 2013 World Cup to a squad led by Craig Kopczak as Wales prepare for pool games against Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Ireland.Grace and loose forward Knowles are nominees for the Super League Young Player of the Year award.
Kear goes to the tournament without injured players Ben Flower (Achilles), Jake Emmitt (elbow), Lloyd White (hamstring), Ollie Olds (knee), Rhys Evans (shoulder), Calvin Wellington (hamstring) and Daniel Brown (knee) while Gil Dudson, Larne Patrick and Dan Fleming are unavailable.
Under Kear’s predecessor Harris, Wales went out of the 2013 tournament winless but the current boss sees what lies ahead in Papua New Guinea and Australia as a “great opportunity”.”We’ve had withdrawals – some because of injury and some for personal reasons – but the lads who are going are showing a great deal of desire to represent their country,” Kear said.I’m pretty certain that they will perform at this World Cup on the biggest stage. It’s a great opportunity.
“We’ve not won a World Cup match since 2000. We didn’t qualify for the 2008 World Cup and we didn’t win in 2013.”It’s a long time between World Cup wins, but we’re unbeaten in six matches and the main goal is to get that first win.”There’s then nothing to say that we can’t get out of the group and make the quarter-finals.”Players won’t automatically be sent to the sin bin for throwing a punch during the World Cup as they are in the NRL.
The one-punch-and-you’re-off stance adopted by the NRL four years ago when Dave Smith was the code’s chief executive does not feature in the rules for the tournament to begin later this month.While punching comes under the banner of striking, which is deemed an act of misconduct, there is no hard and fast rule for how it should be punished.
Instead, it will be left to the interpretation of World Cup match officials to determine if and how players will be sanctioned, whether by a penalty, sin bin or even a send-off.Last year’s Four Nations featured a punch thrown by a frustrated Sam Burgess at David Klemmer that resulted in a cut above the eye for the Australian forward but didn’t land the Englishman on the sidelines.
The fact the rules for the World Cup are not black and white on the consequences of such conduct leaves open the possibility of flare-ups.However, the tournament’s head of officiating – NRL referees boss Tony Archer – said on Monday the 14 nations had been told that punching was highly frowned upon and warned that they risked being marched for it.
“Punching is one of the [offences] that you can put someone in the sin bin for in the World Cup. If we believe it’s sufficient enough we’ll deal with it,” Archer said. The boys will have a consistent approach to that. We don’t want the games to be marred by that and I’m confident the referees will be able to handle it.
“All the teams and all the nations have been given the rules. They’re aware of what the rules are, all the changes, and what our interpretations are in and around those rules.”The World Cup will be something of a trip back in time for Australian audiences, in particular, when it comes to officiating, with the absence of the NRL bunker and only one on-field referee, rather than two.
Archer maintains that the use of two referees, as in the NRL, is superior to the international policy. He also predicts that the use of an in-goal video referral system, rather than the bunker, will mean contentious calls may take longer to resolve. However, he is confident the system will work throughout the five-week event.
“For our blokes we’ve got a wealth of international 2017 Rugby League World Cup Live experience here. They’ve refereed as one ref before,” he said. “Obviously it brings its own challenges but I’m confident with the experience we’ve got around us that we’ll be right.”