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NRL Sydney Roosters

Mitchell opts to miss WCC

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Wigan Warriors’ World Club Challenge clash against Sydney Roosters promises to be a superb match of rugby league where some of the world’s best line up as the Super League winners face their NRL counterparts – but superstar centre Latrell Mitchell of the Roosters won’t feature.

The 21-year-old made his Australia debut last October against New Zealand and was one of the best players – let alone centres – in the NRL, scoring seventeen tries and ninety goals throughout 2018. Mitchell, though, has opted to participate in the Indigenous All-Stars’ match against the New Zealand Maori two days before the World Club Challenge. It was undoubtedly an unfortunate decision for the centre to have to make and he was essentially forced to choose between the Roosters in England and representing his indigenous heritage in Australia.

Mitchell has clearly chosen the latter but, while it will be a disappointment for UK fans to not get the chance to see the star at the DW Stadium, the Roosters are believed to be coming to face Wigan with their other stars and key players in tow.

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North Queensland Cowboys NRL Super League

RFL to stand by Barba NRL ban

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Late last week North Queensland Cowboys confirmed that recent signing Ben Barba has been sacked by the club, the NRL outfit terminating his deal and citing an alleged assault on his partner at a Townsville casino – a move which could see the end of his rugby league career.

Despite once welcoming him to these shores after being hit with a drugs ban during his time with Cronulla Sharks, the RFL are believed to be set to back the ban imposed by the NRL meaning that the former St Helens man could find it impossible to find another club in the thirteen-man code. “I haven’t seen the footage as yet, but if it shows violence towards a woman, really there is no debate. Ben Barba will be out of the NRL immediately and I can’t see him ever returning,” NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said to the media following the news’ emergence.

If the RFL and, in turn, Super League were to support the NRL’s stance on the full-back – last year’s Man of Steel and top try scorer – it will in all likelihood leave solely European rugby union as his only option if Barba wishes to continue a rugby career. He previously plied his trade with Toulon in France before joining St Helens in May 2017 but it may well turn out that rugby union clubs take a similar view to the NRL on his future in sport.

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NRL Sydney Roosters

NRL great set to face Wigan in WCC

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Despite recent injury troubles, Sydney Roosters’ half-back Cooper Cronk has returned to pre-season training with the 2018 NRL winners with head coach Trent Robinson confirming in Australian media that the 35-year-old superstar will be fit and ready for the Warriors test in February.

The former Golden Boot winner and many-time international and State of Origin number seven has undergone off-season shoulder surgery, an injury he played with in last year’s NRL Grand Final. Playing with the number 23 on his back in what was something of an unexpected inclusion a week after sustaining a broken shoulder blade, Cronk played with pretty much one arm in the season finale. Robinson – formerly in the Catalans hotseat – revealed to news outlets Down Under that Cronk has returned to training in recent days after surgery.

The World Club Challenge against Wigan (DW Stadium, 17th February) will certainly be a challenge for both teams and will see new Warriors’ head coach Adrian Lam taking charge of the Super League reigning champions against the team he left a coaching role with to head to Super League. Former Leeds Rhinos’ wideman Ryan Hall could also be in line to make a swift return to familiar shores where one of his first Roosters’ appearances could be at the DW Stadium in the showpiece contest.

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Betfred Championship Championship and League One Featherstone Rovers

Rovers sign Eel King

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Championship side Featherstone Rovers have confirmed the signing of former Parramatta hooker Cameron King on a one-year deal, the club have confirmed.

King, 27, was out of contract with the NRL Eels at the end of 2018 and had been using social media in a bid to find a club for 2019 after offers were otherwise not forthcoming. Rovers’ new head coach Ryan Carr, himself also an Australian, has taken advantage of King’s situation and the Fev faithful will no doubt be excited to see what their ex-NRL man can offer the club as they look to rebuild through this season.

“I’m very excited to have Cameron joining our club for the 2019 season,” Carr told the media following the announcement of the 43-time NRL player signing with the LD Nutrition Stadium club. “He is a very talented hooker with plenty of NRL experience and will be a huge asset for us at Featherstone this year,” the Rovers head coach added. Noting his personal relationship with King, Carr outlined his confidence that the hooker – who scored the match-winning try for the Eels against Wigan in the 2011 World Club Challenge – would be a good fit for the club. “I know what a great person he is to have in a club. His work ethic and commitment are extremely professional, and he will bring great leadership both on and off the field,” he explained, continuing that “I’m very excited to be working with him and having him at our club for the upcoming season.”

Featherstone will host leading amateurs Hunslet Club Parkside on Saturday afternoon after the pair lost their opening Yorkshire Cup fixtures last weekend.