Any doubts over the relevance of international rugby league were quashed the moment one UK Super League club released two of its most important players ahead of a sudden-death clash against one of its fiercest rivals.
Hull FC are set to take on St Helens in the Challenge Cup this weekend in what will be as a crunch sixth-round tie, but they’ll have to do so without former NRL stars Frank Pritchard and Sika Manu.
The pair will miss the clash not through injury or suspension but because they are in Australia to lead Tonga and Samoa in the Pacific Test tonight at Pirtek Stadium.
“We were both captains last year so we’ve been speaking about it for a few months,” Manu told NRL.com.
“Me and Franky have been talking about it for a while so it’s great that it actually happened. We are really fortunate to have a club that was willing to release us to come and play this Test, especially with the Challenge Cup this week.
“The only problem we faced was having to play St Helens in the first round of the Challenge Cup but our coach was confident that the boys could get the job done. We’ve got a lot of depth at the club at the moment so it was easy in the end.
“Clubs should be more mindful of the international game… and City-Country as well. To play representative footy means a lot to the players and gives them a boost. Hopefully in the future more clubs can do what Hull did so we can get more players playing for our country.”
Pritchard echoed his Tongan counterpart’s sentiments, praising the Super League club for their efforts to promote the international game.
“The sacrifice that club has made – especially with the Challenge Cup on – is very humbling to both of us,” a grateful Pritchard told NRL.com this week.