Kearney urges eligibility rethink
Kiwis coach Steve Kearney has urged the Rugby League International Federation to conduct an urgent review of dual eligible players so that the top talent from all nations is featured at next year's Rugby League World Cup.
Speaking just hours after Semi Radradra was named to make his Test debut for the Kangaroos against New Zealand in Newcastle next Friday night, Kearney raised concerns some of the game's brightest talents will be ruled out of playing in the World Cup due to the eligibility criteria.
Players such as Tuimoala Lolohea and Sio Siua Taukeiaho represented Tonga in last year's Representative Round before being selected for the Kiwis' tour of England at the end of the season, effectively disqualifying them from selection for Tonga until after the World Cup.
Radradra now also falls into that category having declared his allegiance to Australia via residency qualifications, making him ineligible to play for Fiji next year even if he is not selected to play for the Kangaroos.
For Kearney, this represents the most pressing issue with regards to international eligibility.
"I think it's certainly something we need to consider for the World Cup next year," Kearney said.
"If I have a player that plays for me who can also play for Samoa or Tonga and I pick him now and then don't pick them in the World Cup next year... I think you need to be available for these other nations. For me, that's something that I think can certainly be looked at moving forward.
"I want all players of New Zealand and Pacific islands to play international football and if we don't choose them in the New Zealand team of course we want them to be available to play international football.
"That should be a given."
With a number of selection headaches of his own following injuries to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Lolohea and Simon Mannering, Kearney was reluctant to be drawn on the controversy surrounding Radradra's Kangaroos selection, only to say that he would prefer to see players representing their nation of heritage.
"Would it be great to see Semi playing for Fiji? Of course it would but that's the way the rules are and I'm not going to change them," Kearney said.
"The rules say that he can play but I guess what I'm saying is that I'd be a little bit disappointed if I was born in Australia and playing in one of those positions and then I don't get picked.
"That's not my call and I'll just worry about my team, thanks."
Kearney will announce his team to take on Australia on Sunday but said there were few surprises in Mal Meninga's first team in charge of the Kangaroos.
"There are not too many surprises. For me the big point that I want to make is that whoever they pick to play in the Australian jumper, they're always going to be a quality team. In that sense there is no surprises for myself," said Kearney, who has engineered three straight wins over the Kangaroos.