James Roby will keep his emotions at bay and focus on leading St Helens towards an achievement he believes would eclipse all others when he steps out on home turf for the final time against Warrington in Saturday’s Betfred Super League play-off.

The 37-year-old’s swansong at the Totally Wicked Stadium is guaranteed whatever the result, with a win propelling Saints into a semi-final against Catalans in Perpignan, and one game away from enabling Roby to fulfil his dream of signing off with an unprecedented fifth straight Grand Final win.

Beyond the business-as-usual mantra which has served the home-grown hero so well since he made his Saints debut as a teenager against Widnes 549 games ago, he acknowledged he will be stepping into the unknown when the final hooter brings an end to his last home appearance.

“My whole approach is that it is just another game, but maybe after the final whistle I might think a little differently,” Roby told the PA news agency.

“As of yet, it’s not sunk in that it’s the last time. I’m not the most emotional person.

“But I know after the game it might feel different, depending on the result and the atmosphere, if the fans are singing my name, a little bit of emotion might come out.”

Having announced in February that 2023 would be his final season, Roby, who would duly go on to break his club’s all-time appearance record, started the campaign by lifting the World Club Challenge trophy after a stunning upset win over Penrith in Australia.

The after-effects of that gruelling early trip threatened to curtail his career before the play-offs, with Paul Wellens’ men initially struggling to wrestle their way into the play-off positions before a late flourish sealed their customary post-season place.

Whilst he may be unsure about his emotional response to his final home appearance, Roby is crystal clear on what a fifth successive Grand Final crown would represent in the context of his already-glittering career.

“It’s the ending I would love to pick – to do five in a row, I don’t think that could ever be beaten by any other success I’ve had, or any accolade or praise I’ve had in the past,” continued Roby.

“It would be an amazing accomplishment for us as a team, and to finish on that, I couldn’t think of anything better.

“If you’d told me back when I made my debut that I would be in this position I wouldn’t have believed it.

“My mentality was, I’ve got my foot in the door a little bit here, don’t mess it up, keep your head down, keep your mouth shut and do what’s asked of you.

“It seemed to work well and before you know it you’re 20 years down the line and you’re getting ready to retire.

“I know for a fact I’ve been extremely lucky and privileged to do all this for my home-town club, and I’ll be forever grateful for everything they’ve done for me.”

Roby is honest enough to admit there is little about the matchday experience itself that he will miss: “I just look forward to coming to watch a game without the stress of having to play in it,” he joked.

His investment in the Saints’ cause will not end when he hangs up his famous red vee shirt this weekend.

Roby hopes his legacy of longevity will ensure future generations of Saints players maintain and extend the club’s dominant stature in the domestic game.

“I’ve never led this team on my own,” added Roby. “There’s a bunch of leaders in this team who are individually fantastic, but when it all slots together it becomes bigger than the sum of its parts and we can go on to achieve greatness.

“Hopefully a little bit of me and Louie (McCarthy-Scarsbrook, who is also retiring) will live on in the quality of those we leave behind, and it’s their responsibility and privilege to drive standards until it is their time too to pass on the baton.”

Wigan Warriors claimed the League Leaders Shield on points difference from Catalans Dragons and St Helens with a hard-earned victory over near neighbours Leigh Leopards.

Tries from Jai Field and Jake Wardle plus a conversion from Harry Smith looked to have put Matt Peet’s side on course for a routine victory.

But Leigh hit back just before half-time with a try from Lachlan Lam, added to by Ben Reynolds which cut the deficit to 10-6.

No points were scored in a titanic second half as Wigan were forced to hang on for their eighth straight win, which secured top spot in Super League and the shield which they were presented with on the pitch after the game.

Leigh started the night in fourth but dropped to fifth after Hull KR’s big win at Wakefield. It means Leigh will face Hull KR – the team they beat in the Challenge Cup Final – at Craven Park in the play-offs.

The home side were without influential skipper John Asiata for the third game running through a shoulder injury. Former Wigan centre Zak Hardaker was also missing with a hand problem.

It was an explosive start in front of a sold-out crowd at the Leigh Sports Village with both sides coming up with some big hits to make it a crackling atmosphere.

The home side had looked the more likely to open the scoring but it was the visitors who struck first in the 18th minute. Field showed great footwork after taking Smith’s pass to beat three Leigh defenders and score in the corner. Smith – making his 100th appearance for Wigan – added the conversion to make it 6-0.

Wigan had beaten Leigh three times already this season and scored a second try 10 minutes later – Smith and Field combining on the left edge to send Wardle in at the corner. Smith could not add the goal but the Warriors looked in control at 10-0.

The introduction of Joe Mellor from the bench gave the Challenge Cup winners some impetus and they finished the half strongly. Reynolds combined with Kai O’Donnell on the left edge and Lam hit the pass at pace to cut through and score. Reynolds kicked the conversion to cut the deficit to just four.

Both sides felt aggrieved to see potential tries disallowed in quick succession early in the second half. Field was pulled back after an earlier obstruction before Oliver Gildart’s effort for Leigh was sent to the video referee and ruled out after lengthy deliberation.

Leigh continued to press in the closing stages but they were thwarted by some determined Wigan defence.

The regular Betfred Super League season comes to a close on Friday night with both the League Leaders’ Shield and the sixth and final play-off slot still up for grabs.

Ahead of the announcement of the official 2023 ‘Dream Team’ this weekend, the PA news agency selects its own all-star line-up from the campaign so far.

Jack Welsby (St Helens)

The flashy 22-year-old full-back remains a cut above most of his rivals and has played an integral part in helping Paul Wellens’ men shake off their sluggish early season and re-emerge as a threat at the business end.

Abbas Miski (Wigan)

Just a year after being loaned out to Championship side Newcastle Thunder, the Lebanese winger has evolved into a try-scoring machine for the Warriors, his 27 taking him into the final week of the regular season joint-top of the standings.

Adam Keighran (Catalans)

Brilliant with the boot and equally at home at centre, hooker or in the halves, Keighran – who will move to Wigan at the end of the current campaign – has been a crucial element of another successful season in the south of France.

Jake Wardle (Wigan)

Wardle’s move to Wigan last October raised few eyebrows but the 24-year-old has exceeded expectations at centre, underlined by a superb first career hat-trick in the 50-0 win over Leeds earlier this month.

Tom Johnstone (Catalans)

Johnstone, equalled only by Miski in the season’s try count, has been a revelation in his first season in Perpignan, his trademark surges down the left flank suggesting his previous injury issues are now a thing of the past.

Bevan French (Wigan)

Having migrated to the halves in mid-season to help solve a minor injury crisis, French appears to found his true home under head coach Matt Peet, seamlessly transferring his speed and invention on the wing to a much more pivotal role.

Lachlan Lam (Leigh)

A model of consistency in Leigh’s spine, Lam has been one of the biggest reasons for their phenomenal success, and fittingly kicked the golden-point winner after a man-of-the-match performance in the Challenge Cup final.

Paul Vaughan (Warrington)

His season may be set to end in ignominy after a four-match ban for unnecessary contact, but few will dispute the juddering impact the Australian prop made in the early part of the season, when Wire were intent on sweeping all before them.

Edwin Ipape (Leigh)

Tirelessly influential, constantly probing, only Saints veteran James Roby came close to matching Ipape’s impact at number nine this season, as the Papua New Guinea international adapted superbly to life in the top flight.

Tom Amone (Leigh)

Only Vaughan has made more metres from the front row this season, and the Tongan’s gritty consistency has been a major factor in the success of his team-mates in the Leopards’ all-action spine.

James Bell (St Helens)

Bell has been a revelation in Saints’ second row this season, adding strong defence to a more consistent attacking threat to make himself an indispensable part of head coach Wellens’ late-season revival.

Matt Whitley (Catalans)

Whitley has been a model of consistency in his five seasons with Catalans and saved his best for the current campaign. His impending addition to a congested Saints back row for 2024 is a coup for Wellens.

Elliot Minchella (Hull KR)

That KR’s injury-hit campaign did not buckle after their Challenge Cup final loss to Leigh is largely down to Minchella, whose increasing influence steadied the Robins’ ship and marked him out as the stand-out number 13 in the competition.

 The 2023 National Club Championship Grand Finals (NCC) will contested between Duhaney Park Red Sharks and Washington Boulevard Bulls after both registered wins over Liguanea Dragons and West Kingston Hyenas, respectively, in semi-final action on Saturday at the UWI Mona Bowl.

The showdown set for Sunday, September 31 at the University of the West Indies' Mona Bowl, will be a repeat of the 2022 Finals.

The Red Sharks will be making their seventh consecutive finals appearance and 15th overall in 17 seasons of the Jamaica Rugby League. This will be the Bulls’ second appearance in the finals.

In the first semi-final on Saturday, the Oshane-Eddie-coached Bulls battled their way to hard-fought 43-32 a win over West Kingston Hyenas.  Bulls came out firing on all cylinders, racing to a 26-6 lead at half time. However, the Hyenas came roaring back in the final 40 minutes and almost pulled off the upset with the Bulls forced to hold on for the final five minutes.

“I’m really pleased with the effort of the players and staff make it to our second Grand Finals, and I must commend the Hyenas for a well-played game, they finished really strong,” Eddie said following the bruising encounter.

Bulls scorers: Tries: Howayne Mattis (2), Ronaldeni Fraser (2), Oshane Edie, Hakeem Richards, Shaneal Brown, Chevaun Smith. Goals: Shamoy Stewart (4), Edie. Drop Goal: Edie

Hyenas: Andrew Hylton (2), Neville Lynch, Raul Thomas, Omar Jones, Kamarine Williams. Goals: Damar McKoy, Hylton (2)

In the second semi-final, Duhaney Park overwhelmed Dragons 56-4.

The defending champions seemingly scored at will while consistently snuffing out scoring opportunities for their opponents, especially in the first 20 minutes. By half-time, the defending champs were in full ascendancy having built a 26-6 lead.

Red Sharks center Ryan Grant led all scorers with 22 points.

“I must praise the team's defensive resolve,” said Head Coach Roy Calvert following the lopsided affair. “The Dragons threw a lot at us early, especially around the ruck area. We were on the ropes for a bit in the early exchanges, but the boys hung in there and kept turning up for each other. To be able to limit them to one try is awesome and I am proud.”

Red Sharks scorers: Tries: Ryan Grant (2), Kenneth Walker (2), Akeem Murray, Javion Bryan, Tahjai Maitland, Chevaugn Bailey. Goals: Grant (7), Bryan

Dragons: Tries: Adrian Hall. Goal: Michael Pearson

The Red Sharks beat the Bulls twice in the round-robin stages of the competition and are firm favourites to win yet another title.

As two of Warrington’s greatest, Paul Cullen and Ben Westwood were hardly shrinking violets.

Fan favourite Cullen earned the nickname ‘Psycho’ for his aggressive defence during a 15-year career in which he made 350 appearances for his hometown club.

Westwood, meanwhile, was known as the ‘Wrecking Ball’ for his integral role in the side that won three Challenge Cup finals between 2009 and 2012.

Yet as much as they clearly relished the bone-jarring collisions, both admit they may have met their match in wheelchair rugby league.

That growing sport is something they both now have experience of having joined a team of past Warrington players to face one of the club’s wheelchair sides in a promotional game.

The Wolves were admitted to the Wheelchair Super League last year and arranged the fixture earlier this month to raise funds and awareness for their side.

“It was frightening,” Cullen, who went on to coach the club after hanging up his boots in 1996, told the PA news agency. “They didn’t shirk anything and there were some very big hits.

“We were all experienced professionals but this was something else. It was so demanding physically.

“A few of us got knocked out of our chairs but while they just bounced back up we had to get helped back in.

“They absolutely schooled us. We didn’t score a single try. The only thing we were good at was kicking off – and we got plenty of practise at that because they kept scoring!”

As well as Cullen and Westwood, the ex-professionals’ team also featured other past stars including Toa Kohe-Love, Mark Forster and Mike Wainwright.

They were thrashed 24-0 by the Wolves’ wheelchair development side but the result was not the purpose of the exercise.

The wheelchair game gained new popularity with some national TV exposure during last year’s World Cup and Warrington are keen to build on that.

“I enjoyed it and it was good fun,” said Westwood, scorer of 188 tries in his 446-game Wire career. “I would definitely give it another go and hopefully we can be a bit better next time.

“The hits that went in – I was shocked – but, at the same time, I was thinking this is how rugby league should be, even in wheelchairs.

“There were quite a lot of people there. It can only help the sport going forward and hopefully get more people going to watch it.”

Leigh Leopards hero Lachlan Lam revealed he entered unknown territory when he let fly with the drop-goal that sealed his side’s historic Betfred Challenge Cup final win over Hull KR at Wembley.

Lam was set up by team-mate Gareth O’Brien, who minutes earlier had missed his own glaring opportunity to clinch the winner in golden point extra time, and duly converted for the first time in his career.

“It was my first pro field goal, and it felt like I had a lot of time when I kicked it,” said Lam, one of the stand-outs of the season who added the prestigious Lance Todd Trophy for his man of the match display in Leigh’s 17-16 win.

“We’ve done a lot of work on it in the last few months because you know you’re going to be in that position at some stage,” added Lam. “Gaz missed the first one and had the trust to throw it back to me to take that kick.

“I dropped it a little bit on the angle but halfway towards the posts I knew it was going over. It happened really quickly. I went to celebrate and all of a sudden I was on my back.”

Leigh’s win, which continued an astonishing first season back among the top flight, was fashioned in the most dramatic of circumstances after Matt Parcell helped haul Rovers level with 80 seconds left of normal time.

After O’Brien missed the first chance to win it, the usually dependable Brad Schneider came up short for Hull KR with a rash long-ranger and gave Lam, the son of Leopards head coach Adrian, the chance to seal a fairytale title.

The pride was etched on the face of father Adrian, the architect of Leigh’s amazing campaign, who said: “It’s just incredible to talk about how this has happened.

“This time last year we were coming in to prepare for the (1895 Cup) final. How that’s gone around in the last 12 months, it’s an incredible story for rugby league for us even to be here.

“I don’t just want to make it about Lachlan but it was a special moment. I’ve thought this week how lucky I am having him playing here for my team and doing well.

“It was just a really weird moment when he went to take the field goal, the ball was thrown back to him and I thought, he’s going to win us the game here.

“I’ve coached him since he was six so what went through my mind was knowing how many times we’d been in the opposite position and been left heartbroken, so that was a bit of serendipity.”

Rovers boss Willie Peters hoped his side had the momentum following their late fightback but admitted a botched extra period cost them dear.

Instead of the ice-cool way in which they sank Wigan in similar circumstances in the semi-final, Rovers coughed up an early error then Schneider’s snatched effort failed to find touch.

“I thought our luck had changed and we had got the momentum,” said Peters. “But we’ve got to learn our lessons and Leigh showed us how to play in golden point, we took six carries and went for a long-distance field goal.

“We didn’t handle golden point very well but I’m very proud of the players. We just hung in there and it proves the fight and character of this team to keep going to the end there and lock it up.

“We had our chances so it’s really hard to take. We will have a good little break now but we have always come back and responded, and on Friday when we go to St Helens, if we want to be flat and complacent we’re in for a long night.”

Tara Jones sparked a first-half burst which left Leeds Rhinos reeling as St Helens kept their grip on the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup for the third straight year.

In the first women’s final played at Wembley, Saints scored tries in three consecutive sets and seldom looked in danger of surrendering their advantage as they cruised to a 22-8 triumph.

Caitlin Beevers did give Leeds some degree of hope with a brilliant solo try two minutes after the interval, but a swift response from Shona Hoyle effectively sealed a second straight loss for the Rhinos.

Lois Forsell’s side had started strongly with Dannielle Anderson and Jasmine Cudjoe both held up over the line before former Saint Amy Hardcastle’s 40 metre surge was brought to an end by a last-gasp tackle by Eboni Partington.

Jones created the shift in momentum by crashing over from dummy half in the 13th minute and two minutes later, Zoe Harris sent Phoebe Hook jinking down the right wing to add Saints’ second.

Two fine conversions from Amy Taylor – the second from the touchline – extended Saints’ advantage and they extended their lead three minutes later when Chantelle Crowl’s tenacity made space for an attack which ended in Partington crossing in the corner.

Saints were scything through the Leeds defence almost at will, but the Rhinos clung on and finally got on the board in the 25th minute when Beevers sent Sophie Robinson over in the corner.

Beevers’ sensational start to the second half – when she picked up the ball on her own 30 and shrugged off a series of Saints defenders – hauled Leeds back to within eight points and suggested a significant momentum shift.

But Leeds were guilty of slacking off at a crucial moment as Shona Hoyle found it too easy to bull over on the right to land their fourth try and restore Saints’ 12-point cushion.

Despite some tricky kicking from Caitlin Casey, Leeds were unable to breach a resolute Saints rearguard and a two-point kick from Taylor in the 64th minute stretched Matty Smith’s side further out of sight.

The next Rugby League World Cup will take place in the southern hemisphere in 2026, the sport’s international governing body has announced.

The tournament had been due to take place in France in 2025 but the prospective hosts pulled out in May citing a failure to achieve financial guarantees.

In addition, the IRL announced a resumption of the Ashes series with England’s men’s and women’s teams travelling to Australia in 2025, and return visits from New Zealand and Australia in 2027 and 2028 respectively.

The International Rugby League (IRL) said a precise decision on the hosting rights for the next World Cup will be announced later this year.

The revised tournament will feature a reduced field of 10 men’s teams, as well as eight-team women’s and wheelchair World Cups respectively.

IRL chairman Troy Grant said the organisation has received two separate bids to host the new tournament, presumed to be from Australia and New Zealand, which will be backed by government guarantees.

Grant said: “We will have an expedited bid process and the host will be identified before the year’s end, once the board has completed its due diligence of those bids.”

Hull KR coach Willie Peters will spare his star men the prospect of facing a potentially-vengeful Wigan on Friday night with their Wembley Challenge Cup final date fast approaching.

Peters plans to field a virtually-unrecognisable line-up for their Betfred Super League clash at the DW Stadium, including three players he has brought in this week on short-term loan deals plus three academy graduates who will make their first-team debuts.

Rovers edged Matt Peet’s men in a semi-final thriller at Headingley less than two weeks ago and despite their desire to cement a play-off spot, Peters is making no apologies for refusing to take risks with his already injury-hit squad.

“Obviously it’s a very important game this week but it’s a very important game next week too,” said Peters. “We will be going there with a team that is going to compete but we’ve got to be smart as well.

“If we have a team that goes out and competes from one minute to 80, I’ll be a proud coach. I think this is a game that we can hopefully go and make our fans proud of us, that a young team has gone over to Wigan and given their all.”

Rovers face Leigh at Wembley on August 12 where they will hunt their first Challenge Cup victory since their only previous triumph over city rivals Hull FC in 1980.

Peters confirmed the respective signings of Catalans half-back Cesar Rouge, Wakefield prop Isaac Shaw and Warrington forward Luke Thomas, all on two-week loan deals.

In addition, academy players Leo Tennison, Louix Gorman and Lennie Ellis will make the first team for the first time.

Peters is still hopeful that Tom Opacic, Eliot Minchella and Ethan Ryan will all recover from their current injuries in time for the Challenge Cup final a week on Saturday, but Jordan Abdull will definitely miss the Wembley date.

Jake Clifford returned to inspire Hull FC to their first win over St Helens in 17 attempts as they shrugged off the painful memory of last week’s Challenge Cup defeat with a blistering six-try performance at the MKM Stadium.

Just five days ago Josh Griffin’s sending-off for dissent cost his side a realistic chance of claiming a rare win over Paul Wellens’ men but Clifford – who had missed the Cup tie through concussion – delivered a 14-point haul to seal a 34-6 thrashing of the world champions.

Clifford, who was yet to turn professional the last time Hull beat Saints in 2017, set the tone by scoring the first try with less than seven minutes gone and set up the clincher for Cam Scott, before Darnell McIntosh rounded the night off in style with a devastating 70-yard burst.

Saints had swaggered into east Yorkshire on the back of six straight wins and suggesting they had recovered their best form in impressive recent wins over Huddersfield and Wigan.

But they were distinctly second best all evening, the visitors’ misery was compounded by glaring errors from the usually dependable duo of Lewis Dodd and Jack Welsby as Tony Smith’s men effectively sealed their win by storming into a 22-0 half-time lead.

Clifford opened the scoring when he stretched over from a short pass from McIntosh, then Carlos Tuimavave added a second after a burst from the impressive Andre Savelio after Dodd carelessly booted the ball into his arms.

Welsby’s moment to forget duly followed on 20 minutes, when he loitered over Jake Trueman’s kick, McIntosh squeezed past to flap the ball back and Trueman pounced to pat it down, Clifford’s second conversion taking Hull’s lead to 16.

Chris Satae found it far too easy to drive over just past the half-hour mark to score Hull’s fourth, and the first half damage could have been even worse for Saints after Davy Litten went over acrobatically in the corner but lost contact just before grounding.

Ears no doubt ringing from Wellens’ half-time team talk, Saints summoned the immediate response they required, when James Bell crossed under the posts after a storming run from Konrad Hurrell broke the Hull line for the first time.

With the half-time introduction of James Roby, Wellens’ men had added urgency, and there were signs of a momentum shift as Hull were forced to defend deep to repel a series of Saints attacks.

But the hosts emerged uncowed, and after surviving another difficult set they responded in style, Scott darting onto Clifford’s clever kick to twist over for his side’s fifth try.

Litten failed to ground another chance in the corner but McIntosh served up a fitting finale that sees his side shake off the memory of their early season woes and shaping up for an unlikely shot at the play-offs.

Hull KR full-back Lachlan Coote has retired with immediate effect on medical advice following a series of concussions over the past two seasons.

Australia-born Coote won three consecutive Super League titles with St Helens between 2019 and 2021 before joining Rovers ahead of the 2022 campaign.

The 33-year-old’s professional career also included international recognition with Scotland and Great Britain, in addition to spells with Penrith Panthers and North Queensland Cowboys.

“After suffering another concussion at Magic round, my fifth concussion in less than two years, I knew I was going to be faced with some tough conversations,” he told Hull KR’s website.

“With all the support from my coach Willie Peters, Paul Lakin (Hull KR CEO), Neil Hudgell (Hull KR owner) and the medical team at Hull KR, I have made a very difficult decision to retire immediately.

“Rugby league has always come first before anything, now I think it’s time to put my health, my future, my family first.

“I’m still finding it hard to come to terms with this decision and it has been a very emotional few days, knowing that I will not get to play alongside my team-mates again and finish off what we started.”

Coote made 27 appearances for Rovers, who sit seventh in the Super League after 15 games.

He scored 161 points for the club, surpassing 1,000 career points during that time.

Hull KR coach Peters said: “On behalf of everyone at Hull KR, we’d like to congratulate Lachlan on a wonderful 15-year career. Lachlan is a proven winner and will no doubt continue that into his retirement.

“It’s a sad situation for Lachlan having to retire halfway through the season. However, his health and family come first and the decision is the right one for him and his family.”

Seminal moments have been slow in coming to Odsal in recent years and opinions are split over whether Thursday night’s first match trialling a new rugby league tackle law represented a significant step in the fight against concussion or an idea the sport should swiftly forget.

The crumbling venue, witness to World Cup ties and a record six-figure Challenge Cup crowd in 1954, hosted the first match in an initial eight-week experiment at academy level which bars tackles above armpit height at first contact, and penalises all contact with the head at neck.

The match between the respective under-18 teams of Bradford and Leeds, which was won by the latter 50-32, featured the expected stratospheric penalty count, with 57 interventions by referee Matthew Lynn overall, including 49 for high tackles.

The trial is part of a bid to reduce the number of concussions in the game, with the intention, if it is backed up by data, of enshrining the new tackle technique in law across both community and academy fixtures in the game, though not at the elite level.

Bradford head of youth Ryan Hunkin said: “I went in open-minded, I didn’t know what it would be like, and I don’t think it was as bad as people were expecting.

“We knew there would be more penalties and they had more energy at half-time than normal because of the stop-start nature, but kids adapt. It’s the ideal age for them to try it because they adapt quickly at this age, and they soon pick it up.”

Both teams gave away two penalties each in the opening two sets, including in the first tackle of the game, and rumblings of discontent were clear among the players and the handful of spectators in the cavernous old stadium.

The inevitable stalls in momentum were mitigated by the opportunity for a more expansive game, with both sides tending to limit themselves to two men in the tackle, for fear that a third would inevitably incur another penalty.

Striking the right balance is crucial for Hunkin, who added: “As a spectacle I don’t think it was where it will be in eight weeks. It’s a start, and we’ve got to start somewhere. But it’s a contact sport and we want to try and keep it a contact sport.”

Rugby league’s approach to lowering concussion levels in the sport differs markedly from the approach of rugby union, which sparked controversy with its out-of-the-blue announcement in January that it was lowering the allowed tackle height to below the waist in all forms of the community game from July.

The backlash was such that the Rugby Football Union subsequently amended its new tackle height to below the sternum, although there remains resistance to the changes that are due to come into force next month.

While league officials hope their more inclusive move will ensure broader backing within the game, there is clearly concern in some quarters, and Hunkin’s counterpart at Leeds, John Bastian, reflected a markedly more measured response to the trial among the Rhinos backroom staff.

“I understand what the RFL are doing but something has to be better than that for us to make our sport safer because that is very, very difficult to watch and play in,” said Bastian.

“It was very complex for both teams and very complicated to play any rugby with any skill or momentum. The rules are being challenged by the Rugby Football League. That’s fine but it made the rules more complicated tonight.”

There was also an acknowledgement of the huge task facing officials in calling near-constant infractions in the tackle while maintaining a focus on other aspects of the game.

Elite referee Marcus Griffiths, who is effectively leading the roll-out from an officials’ perspective, praised the performance of Lynn, but stressed the importance of respecting the difficulties faced by referees in rolling out the new rules.

“It’s a massive ask to referee that way because we’re taught certain ways of identifying tackles and foul play, and we’re having to adapt too,” said Griffiths.

“He’s done an amazing job. It was challenging at times out there, and it’s a massive learning curve. At times, we’re going to need arms around officials because it’s challenging.

“To go out and give 57 penalties, it’s frustrating and at times you’re going to have players taking out their frustrations on you.”

On the eve of preparations to compete in the Naples 9s Tournament on Saturday, May 20, in Florida, the National Women’s rugby league team has received a boost from two corporate entities to assist in their participation in the tournament.

 Local company Mailpac Group Ltd. has come on board to assist the team. The arrangement will see the Women Reggae Warriors jersey display the company logo on the front of the playing shirt.

The Reggae Warriors will feature players from the Jamaican domestic league, Canada, and the US.  The tournament will be the second representative opportunity for the women’s team since they participated in the Americas 9s in Toronto in 2019.

 “It is an exciting time for women’s rugby league in Jamaica. We are determined to provide adequate representative opportunities for our ladies and in this instance, Mailpac’s support is warmly welcomed and will impact our national female athletes in a positive way,” said Mike Williams, the team’s manager.

Meanwhile, the management of Mailpac Group Ltd wished the team the best of luck for the tournament.

“The management of Mailpac Group Limited wishes to extend best wishes for success to the team as they compete in Naples!”, it said in a statement.

 The team has also garnered support from Florida based company, On The Spot Loans LLC. The company’s logo will feature prominently on the team’s off-field wear for the tournament.

 “We are happy to have the assistance of On The Spot Loans LLC, we are looking forward to building the relationship, especially for when we compete in tournaments and games in the USA,” Williams said.

 Meldiana Parker of On The Spot Loans LLC said, “We are proud sponsors of the Women Reggae Warriors 9s team. We wish the team all the best, and we will be there in person to show our support.”

 The women’s bracket will feature four teams - Jamaica Reggae Warriors, Carolina Blues, New York Roots and Carolina Storm.

The men’s draw features eight teams in two groups. Group One features Jamaica Exodus, New York Roots, Southwest Florida Copperheads and Cleveland Rockers.  Group Two features Carolina Storm, Jamaica Hurricanes, San Diego Barracudas and Miami Speed.


Jamaica Women Reggae Warriors

Angel Griffiths, Brenda Doctor, Carole Kelly, Crystal Groves, Daina Fearon, Debisha Scarlett, Janelle Cole, Johneeka Smith, Kamoya Forrest, Kimberly Coombs, Lokara Walker, Moesha Bogle, Naomi Dodd, Shanae Gordon, Shanique Smith, Shawna-Kay Douglas, Sherine Johnson, Trishana Wilson.

Qatar has emerged as a surprise contender to host the 2025 Rugby League World Cup after France relinquished hosting rights earlier this week.

The Gulf nation, which does not have a team or a world ranking, and has never played an international match, is one of four countries to express an interest in staging the event, along with New Zealand, Fiji and South Africa.

The International Rugby League is scrambling to preserve the tournament, which could still be delayed or scrapped alogether, after French organisers admitted they were unable to meet financial guarantees demanded by the French government.

IRL chairman Troy Grant confirmed: “We have received expressions of interest from New Zealand, Fiji, South Africa and Qatar already.

“We are yet to make any assessments in regarded to their viability, I’m just being honest about who has reached out.

“It gives me comfort that there is interest in our sport and our World Cup. How real or viable any or all of those options are, we’re yet to make any of those assessments.”

The Qatari interest, which Grant said comprises two approaches combining state and public funding, continues the nation’s interest in muscling in on the global sporting landscape following a successful football World Cup last year.

And although unlikely, its offer may fit the expansionist policies of a sport that broke new ground when Toronto Wolfpack were accepted as the first transatlantic members of the English rugby league set-up in 2017.

New Zealand remain the obvious front-runners to step in to stage the tournament, but Grant acknowledged that tough decisions may need to be made given the limited time-frame for establishing new hosts.

They include postponement to a later date or outright cancellation, while there are also concerns about whether the current unique format, which comprised men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments, will remain viable at short notice.

“We understand that we need to move quickly,” added Grant. “It will certainly have a big bearing on where the tournament is in 2025, if it proceeds.

“There is a potential option to move out of this cycle and create a new cycle, and that will also be a discussion point for the board in June and July.

“We are not wedded to anything, to be honest. The experience of England last year was that the uniqueness of our offering, with the three World Cups being run at the same time, was a massive point of difference.

“It is a massive selling point so to abandon that strategy would be disappointing, but we have to be practical in any decisions we make going forward.

“It gets us to rethink how we do everything going forward. There’s a unique opportunity that this adversity presents, and I think we should take that opportunity.”

BB Coke High School won its first-ever U16 rugby league title after defeating Campion College 12-4 in the National U16 9s tournament at The Cedar Grove Academy in Portmore, St Catherine on Friday, May 7.

The win means BB Cokes ended the tournament on six points after also beating Spanish Town 24-8. However, they lost to Cedar Grove Academy 16-20. Spanish Town also ended on six points had an inferior points difference.

“The boys promised to bring the 9s title back home after they lost the 13s semi-finals to eventual champions Campion College. The win was built on getting the ball to our speedsters on the wings and strong defense in the middle of the park,” said winning coach Kamar Findlay.

“I was a bit surprised when we lost to Cedar Grove in our second match, but it served as a wake-up call for the team because they came out well against Spanish Town and got the win needed to top the tournament.

“We are extremely happy. This is our first title at the Under 16 level and the school and the entire community of Junction is celebrating with us.”

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