Wayne Bennett and England’s NRL-based players have offered their support for the proposed Test match with New Zealand in Denver as resistance from Australia heightens.
Both the NRL clubs and the Rugby League Players Association are understood to be opposed to the match taking place in the United States, with their concerns understood to centre around insurance issues for those travelling, as well as the high altitude.
But the RFL has hit back at to those concerns with England team doctor Chris Brookes issuing a statement claiming there are no concerns about player welfare, while Bennett and England’s NRL stars also had their say.
A statement released on behalf of Wayne Bennett and NRL-based England players said: “We would like to place on record our absolute support for the upcoming Rugby League International game between England and New Zealand, scheduled to be played in Denver in June.
“We believe that the 2017 Rugby League World Cup in Australia demonstrated the value of the international game to our sport. We all collectively said at the time that it was important we took the opportunity to try and grow the game globally and believe that this mid-season window provides the perfect opportunity for the sport to showcase itself to a new public in North America.
“Whilst we understand that there have been some concerns regarding player welfare, the England Chief Medical Officer, Dr Chris Brookes, has made it clear to us that he has no additional concerns with this game being played in Denver and the insurance that has now been put in place is more comprehensive than any other in the history of International Rugby League.
“We have spoken with our English based teammates who have received the full support of their Super League clubs and we are all in agreement that it is important that this game takes place.”
Meanwhile, Brookes dismissed the notion that player safety was at risk.
“I have had the privilege of being the chief medical officer for Great Britain and England for the last 18 years and player welfare has always been the single most important matter for me,” he told the Mirror.
“I was consulted over this game and I would never have sanctioned the match from a medical viewpoint if I wasn’t satisfied that full consideration was taken for the players’ welfare.
“My reputation for nearly 20 years has been based around that, and the reason I have sanctioned the game is that there is no medical or scientific evidence that I can find that it would be of detriment to the players’ health.
“The stadium is 1,600 above sea level and there is no scientific evidence to support there being any health issues of playing at that height.
“In fact I’m aware of many sports teams, especially in South Africa, that play at a much higher altitude.
“We have specifically asked the people in Denver whether anybody has ever suffered from altitude sickness at that ground and the answer was no.
“That personal comment from them backs up the scientific evidence, and that’s important to ensure that our players are looked after to the highest possible standard.
“As a sub-plot to that, most Super League teams and the national team use altitude chambers at high-performance facilities to gain a physiological advantage.
“Prior to the 2013 World Cup we took the England squad to South Africa to train at altitude so that the physical and chemical metabolic effect improved the performance of the team.”