England’s only warm-up game for the Rugby League World Cup continues to be overshadowed by controversy after the bookmaker Betfred, an official partner of the England team, was forced to apologise for comments made by the broadcaster Eddie Hemmings about one of the players who could make their international debut against Fiji on Friday night.
In a video interview with the England coach, Shaun Wane, that was posted on social media before being deleted, Hemmings said the winger Dom Young, who also qualifies to play for Jamaica, was “not English in the strict sense of the word”. Young, who began his playing career with Huddersfield Giants before moving to the NRL in Australia, was born and raised in Wakefield. His brother Alex will represent the Reggae Warriors at the tournament.
“Dom Young, he could have played for Jamaica, as his brother is … so he’s not English in the strict sense of the word, either,” Hemmings said. He later referred to another new call-up, Herbie Farnworth, who was also born in England before moving to Australia as a teenager, saying: “I’ve just listened to him … he’s as English as you and I, there’s no problems with him.”
Betfred deleted the clip after it was published on Wednesday evening and issued an apology on Thursday to Young and Wane. They said: “This morning Betfred have apologised in person to both Shaun Wane and Dom Young with regard to a recent interview ahead of the Rugby League World Cup, of which a clip was re-edited and posted on social media on Wednesday night. …
“As a partner we would like to reaffirm our commitment to all staff and players in all of the England squads, and we are extremely proud to be involved in the most inclusive World Cup ever.”
The Rugby Football League is expected to disclose the result of its investigation into its chief executive, Ralph Rimmer, in the hours before Friday’s game against Fiji, whose players he made controversial remarks about last week.
Rimmer was captured at an event saying: “Fiji have already arrived. We don’t think anybody has been arrested yet, do we? No, we’re all right, so we’re going pretty well then.” The RFL told the Observer last weekend they had received complaints and were launching an investigation, and the Guardian understands the results will be made public by Friday at the latest. Rimmer is facing calls to step down early from his £167,000-per-year role, having already confirmed he would be leaving in December.
He is expected to be at the game on Friday. With Sam Tomkins rested, Warrington’s George Williams will captain a somewhat new-look England side against Fiji that could include as many as eight debutants including Young, Farnworth and the Salford duo of Marc Sneyd and Andy Ackers.