x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Stuart urges Super League to rethink on imported players

The Australia coach Ricky Stuart says that England will only become a force in Rugby League if they slash the number of imported players.

SYDNEY // The Australia coach Ricky Stuart says England will only become a world power in rugby league if they slash the number of imported players in Super League. Stuart, whose Kangaroos beat England 52-4 in Melbourne, slammed Super League clubs for putting their own interests ahead of the national side in his column in the Sydney Telegraph.

He spoke out after England exited the World Cup with three loses in four matches, including the 32-22 semi-final defeat by New Zealand. "I understand why powerbrokers at English Super League clubs persist in targeting Australian talent - our superior footballers help their chances of winning matches - but the negative effect has never been more obvious," he wrote. "After what I have witnessed over the past month from England, the international game has suffered terribly. The top-end product, their national side, has been disadvantaged by the scramble from Super League owners, coaches and managers to ensure their own individual success.

"Since the last World Cup [in 2000], England have gone backwards. There's really no denying it and it's difficult to see any improvement at the elite level while clubs persist in raiding Australia and New Zealand for talent." Super League clubs have agreed to new rules limiting overseas players to encourage clubs to develop their own talent. But, for Stuart, the move is too little, too late. "The days of Great Britain producing classy, seasoned footballers seem so long ago," he said. "Until a limit is placed on imports ... or a shift away from raiding Australia and New Zealand, I just can't see the international game going forward in the UK."

Meanwhile, Tony Smith's future as Britain's national coach will not be affected by England's failure. The coach insists he will see out the remaining 12 months of his contract and he has been given a vote of confidence by Rugby Football League executive chairman Richard Lewis. Asked if Smith's position is under threat, Lewis said: "No, not at all. "He has a huge role to play in the debrief and review of what's happened here - and he has a huge role to play in setting the record straight when we have a Four Nations in the northern hemisphere in 2009."

* PA Sport