The New Zealand Rugby League has officially asked that at least six NRL players be released for the test against Great Britain in England on June 27 but the Warriors and other clubs have baulked at the plan.

Stuck for options in the six and seven jerseys, it appears Bulldogs rookie halfback Ben Roberts may get a call-up and could make his test debut from reserve grade.

The Warriors claimed not to have received an official request from the NZRL to release hooker Lance Hohaia and suggested they would want to make a decision closer to the game. What amounts to a refusal to release him compounds problems for the Kiwis in the usual critical positions at hooker, halfback and five-eighth.

Warriors CEO Wayne Scurrah said they did not want to interfere with players' test chances but had to consider their squad depth and fielding a competitive team for sponsors and fans. The late announcement of the game and the fact players would miss two NRL matches to play the mid-week test didn't help.

Scurrah said they would make firm decisions today once they knew who was named.

Stacey Jones has played one game back for Les Catalans after 12 weeks out with a broken arm and has said he wants to see how his club form is before making himself available. Thomas Leuluai has aggravated the hamstring tear he suffered in the Anzac test. The Broncos' Greg Eastwood could be a late candidate.

The NZRL will announce a 22-man test squad today and Eastwood and Roberts are expected to be part of it.

The league confirmed yesterday that approaches had been made to the Warriors for centre Clinton Toopi and half/hooker Hohaia; to the Roosters for centre Iosaia Soliola; to the Storm for second-rower David Kidwell; and to Souths for second-rower David Fa'alogo. The Eels, who have the bye over the test week, had agreed to release prop Fuifui MoiMoi

Hohaia is seen as a hooker, but the Warriors appear unlikely to let him and Toopi go, citing lack of depth after the departure of Richard Villasanti, the sacking of Misi Taulapapa and long-term injury of Todd Byrne and Epalahame Lauaki.

Motu Tony is an option in the halves but he has been playing at fullback for Hull. Toopi was considered at fullback so Tony could come forward, but now there is the chance for Richard Swain to come out of international retirement at number nine.

Otherwise the Kiwis will have to use a centre or second-rower out of position at five-eighth.

Kiwis coach Brian McClennan said the test at the St Helens ground offered a good chance to develop players ahead of the Tri-Nations series at the end of the year.

The 22 will be cut to 18 when the team goes into camp. But it's likely that any players taken from the NRL will remain in the playing team.

The NZRL has been told there will be no problems clearing players with English clubs.


Motu Tony, Lesley Vainikolo, Willie Talau, Shontayne Hape, Francis Meli, Greg Eastwood, Stacey Jones, Jason Cayless, Richard Swain, Fuifui Moimoi, David Solomona, Ali Lauitiiti, David Kidwell; interchange Iafeta Palea'aesina, Ben Roberts, David Fa'alogo, Iosaia Soliola.