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Gareth Ellis: We need rugby league’s superstars to play in Colorado

STAR TURN: New Zealand Warriors' Shaun Johnson celebrates with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck after kicking a goal  against North Queensland Cowboys. Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images.
STAR TURN: New Zealand Warriors' Shaun Johnson celebrates with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck after kicking a goal against North Queensland Cowboys. Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images.
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IF Shaun Johnson, Tohu Harris and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck have been left out of the Kiwi squad for the Denver Test due to any stance made by their club New Zealand Warriors then there needs to be repercussions.

It is a bit unclear at the moment why all three haven’t travelled to face England when they all featured in Friday’s win over North Queensland Cowboys and no injuries have been reported.

It is disappointing. International rugby league is one of our weaknesses; we don’t excel here as a sport compared to football and rugby union even though if the game is running well at that level everyone will feel the benefits lower down.

Given all the problems there were in getting the NRL to release players for Saturday’s game in America, I really hope New Zealand Warriors haven’t played a part in their omission and there are genuine reasons that they won’t be playing.

After all, they are superstars and we want them playing international rugby league.

It would be a sorry state of affairs if that is the case and action would need to be taken.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 15:  New Zealand Warriors' Tohu Harris against North Queensland Cowboys in Friday's clash.  Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 15: New Zealand Warriors' Tohu Harris against North Queensland Cowboys in Friday's clash. Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

I’m looking forward to the Test. There’s two ways to look at it with regards what we want to achieve.

From a playing point of view –and I only retired six months ago so I can still remember that – the players will be absolutely thrilled to bits to get the chance to play in America and do something totally different to what’s been done before.

It’s a tough challenge they face and not like some previous mid-season Tests when we’ve faced France in Leigh and it’s all become one-sided.

This a real, full-blooded Test.

International rugby league is one of our weaknesses; we don’t excel here as a sport compared to football and rugby union even though if the game is running well at that level everyone will feel the benefits lower down.

Gareth Ellis

From the point of view of the sport as a whole it would be great if we do get a big crowd at Mile High Stadium in Colorado, but we then have to make sure we get right what happens next.

Is there a process for afterwards on how they build on it next time and take it forward? People always talk about the Olympics and its ‘legacy’ and how you make gains on whatever small advances you make on and off the field. It’s really important that is done right in this instance to make the most of what happens in America or, if not, we might as well have played it here or in New Zealand.

I actually like the look of the team Wayne Bennett has picked. I don’t think there’s too many that missed out that you would have picked instead.

With his squad Bennett has almost got a bit of a State of Origin feel to it; he picks players he trusts and who have done well for him a lot in the past.

England head coach Wayne Bennett. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA

England head coach Wayne Bennett. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA

A lot of Origin players have been selected on reputations as Origin players not what they have done through the year for their clubs.

That’s particularly possible with the selection of Jermaine McGillvary; he probably wasn’t at his best this year when the squad was picked, but I think his performances under Wayne Bennett means he’s in and will probably be one of the first names on his team-sheet.

Bennett is a very loyal coach and I’m sure that’s why players like him so much and, importantly, play well for him: they feel they almost owe him for having that faith in them.

Now, I can’t wait for the action.