There’s only ninety-seven days before the rugby league season returns for 2016 but the game fails to disappoint during the off-season.

WAR CHEST

With Sam Burgess given some time out by his rugby club Bath, speculation has been rife about ‘Slamming Sam’s’ future after England’s failed Rugby World Cup campaign.  Brothers George and Thomas have just re-signed with the Rabbitohs until the end of 2018, so it would be logical for Sam to want to play alongside them.

This morning’s breaking news about Jarryd Hayne may see the former Parramatta flyer move back to the National Rugby League.  We’re running on our Twitter account a poll about whether Hayne will return to the NRL.

So how much does the National Rugby League dig into their ‘war chest’ to bring back Burgess and Hayne considering both made the decision twelve months ago to leave the game?  And should they be ‘guaranteed’ to return to their former clubs when less fortunate clubs like Newcastle and Gold Coast could benefit from a high profile player?

My gut feel is that Burgess will stay in the UK and link with Leeds Rhinos.  Also I can’t imagine Hayne will give up on the National Football League that soon as there’s unfinished business after a handful of games.

WESTS TIGERS

An interesting week for the battlers from the western suburbs.

Marty Tapau’s exit from the club produced the most embarrassing contract arrangements since Daly Cherry-Evans back flipped on his contract at the Titans.  Tapau’s contract sent to a Canadian theatre critic which had the same name as Manly’s CEO Joe Kelly.  Ouch!

Following Tapau’s move to Brookvale it was reported that Matt Ballin was going to play in Tigers colours.  To me this doesn’t make sense as both Ballin and Farah are 31 years old with a limited future in the game.  Why not promote Manaia Cherrington as your number one hooker?

Finally the week ended with Curtis Sironen’s twitter ‘hacked’ by a former girlfriend who had a grudge.  Social media once again claiming another sportsman with some dirty laundry being aired.  A tough lesson learnt for the son of a Leichhardt legend.

WORLD CUP

Lebanon have qualified for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup overnight following their 50-16 win over South Africa in Pretoria overnight.  Travis Robinson scoring a hat-trick for the victors.  It’s the second time they’ve made the World Cup finals after making their debut back in 2000.

Josh Mansour could be one player to benefit from Lebanon making the finals.  It’s unlikely he’ll be picked for Australia despite making four appearances in a depleted Four Nations side last year.  Sauce has already played three tests for Lebanon back in 2009.

Ten of the fourteen spots have been decided for the event being joint hosted by Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.  Australia, New Zealand, England, Fiji, Samoa, France, Scotland and Papu New Guinea automatically qualified for the tournament.  Tonga qualified by beating Samoa in October and now Lebanon qualify as the Middle-East Africa regional winners.  One qualifier from the America and three from Europe will round off the teams to compete at the event.

FIRST UTILITY INTERNATIONAL SERIES KICKS OFF

England has a big chance of ending a five year drought against New Zealand when they face each other in Hull tonight.  Without Shaun Johnson and Keiran Foran in the halves and Simon Mannering through injury, the Kiwis hopes fall on the shoulders of Luke, RTS and Blair. Check out Jordan Weir’s preview here.

Sadly the Australian public won’t be able to watch the game through Fox Sports despite the RFL releasing a statement saying they have the rights.  Another stab in the back for the International game.