NEW Zealand hooker Issac Luke will be available for Saturday’s Gillette Four Nations clash with Wales after being given a caution for the “cannonball” tackle which outraged the Australians.
Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens slammed the 24-year-old South Sydney player for sliding into a tackle on prop David Shillington during his side’s 26-12 win over the Kiwis in last Friday’s opening match.
Shillington needed lengthy on-field treatment on his knee after the challenge, which has been labelled a “cannonball tackle” in Australia’s NRL.
The incident was not put on report by referee Phil Bentham, but it was considered by an international match-review panel, which issued Luke with a caution for “conduct contrary to the true spirit of the game”.
A second caution during the tournament would see Luke automatically charged with an offence which would be considered by an international disciplinary committee.
The match-review panel comprised former Huddersfield head coach Jon Sharp, who represented the Rugby Football League, New Zealand official Marc Harris and Australian Stuart Raper, the former Castleford and Wigan coach who is now jointly in charge of NRL referees.
Meanwhile, Australia vice-captain Cameron Smith has identified his Melbourne Storm team-mate Gareth Widdop as a key threat ahead of Saturday’s Gillette Four Nations clash with England at Wembley.
The 22-year-old Halifax-born Widdop enjoyed a superb first full season in the NRL in his new stand-off role, helping Melbourne to the minor premiership under the leadership of Smith, who cannot speak highly enough of him.
“He’s a wonderful player and a great kid too,” Smith said. “he had a terrific season with us. he shared the rookie of the year (award) with Jessie Bromwich, he’s just a confident guy.
“I know he’ll go good because he’s a tremendous football player. it will be nice to play against him. I haven’t done that yet.
“if he’s playing against us, the guys will have to be ready for anything because he’s got a good bag of tricks – pace, great agility and good hands as well.”
Widdop, a former member of Halifax’s scholarship scheme before emigrating with his family at the age of 16, caught the eye of England coach Steve McNamara after coming through the Storm junior system and made his international debut against France 16 months ago at full-back.
His first-grade opportunities at Melbourne were limited due to the presence of Kangaroos full-back Billy Slater, but he seized his opportunity to plug the gap at stand-off caused by the move of Brett Finch to Wigan.
“he was great for us,” Smith added. “he worked really hard for us defensively. Obviously it was a new role for him and, being in the front line, he had to make a lot of tackles and he did a great job.
“it didn’t surprise me because he works really hard. I thought he brought a new dimension to our game this year. he loves running the football and three-quarters through the season he was second in the competition for line breaks.”