England and New Zealand will play for The Baskerville Shield in a three-Test series.

Confusion over England-NZ draw clause

New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney says he was completely unaware of a clause in the operational manual for the upcoming Tests that stipulates England need only draw the series to retain the Baskerville Shield.

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The rule, a concession from the generous NZRL during the 2002 Great Britain-New Zealand  series to create interest in the Third Test, places even more pressure on a Kiwis line-up missing six members of the side that beat Australia in this year's mid-year international.

With one Kiwis win and one draw 13 years ago, the Rugby Football League asked permission to award the shield to whoever was successful in the Third Test at Wigan, to aid promotion for the game. In a curious explanation, Britain won the trophy "as hosts" after taking out the final game 16-10.

Great Britain won the 2007 series 3-0 and has not played a game since, with England replacing them in a tournament named after the father of international rugby league, Albert Baskerville.

 But the rule remains, with Kearney saying: "I honestly didn't know that was the rule, no.

"But it's not something I am overly worried about."

There is no golden point in Test football - it's not part of international rules. Tournament director John Dutton revealed the policy to NRL.com, explaining: "If there is a situation where one wins, the other wins and it's a draw, England will retain the shield."

"We've had a new shield made but we're sticking to the same principles, it's still the Baskerville Shield. Both teams know that. It's in the tournament manual.

"We talked about 'should we aggregate the points?' How do you do that? It's almost a Ryder Cup style (policy) - the holders shall retain the shield."

Asked about the discrepancy of Great Britain not defending the shield and England benefiting from GB being holders, Dutton replied: "With international rugby league, we have to try to make sense of that. It was a long time ago."

England hooker James Roby said while it would not be ideal to win the series, which kicks off at Hull's KC Stadium on Sunday, "on a technicality", whoever holds up the Shield - once more at Wigan - on November 14 would be entitled to celebrate as winners.

"We're aiming to win all three games but New Zealand will be saying the exact same thing," said St Helens' Roby. 

"They're not ranked number one in the world for nothing, are they?

"Any trophy, at the end of the day, is great. I think at the end of the day we want to win the series.

"To win it on a technicality is maybe not what you set out to do but if that happens, we'll take it. But we're definitely going out to win it outright."

The Kiwis arrived in Hull on Wednesday after a training camp in the south of France. Tournament rules require only that the sides name 19-man squads a couple of days before the Test.

In other news, Super League sponsors First Utility - a Warwick-based energy supplier - will sponsor the series.

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