NOTHING ventured, nothing gained!

That’s my take on England RL’s ground-braking Test Match against New Zealand this Saturday evening.

As is always the case with our game initiatives like this, it doesn’t always get a united support, with many this time questioning ‘why America’.

But for me we must give it our full support, and show the ‘Land of Plenty’ what our game is all about, certainly if we are to build towards a successful 2025 RL World Cup which is being held in the USA.

And what an opportunity for the players. It will be a special moment for both teams to run out at the Sports Authority Field, Mile High, Denver, home of the world-famous Denver Broncos NFL team.

These are special moments for players and rich reward for those who have worked hard to reach the top of their profession, and ones you can look back on in retirement with gratitude.

I had the pleasure of playing over in the USA against their national side in our 2000 RL World Cup warm-up camp in Florida. It was great to see the response of the sport-mad Americans towards our great game, and hopefully it will be another great turn out by the local fans again on Saturday.

Unlike the Betfred Super League, this game will be aired live on BBC2 on Saturday night.

There will be a lot people interested to see the new-look Kiwis, now under the leadership of former Wigan boss Michael McGuire. The word is McGuire could be giving debuts to as many as SEVEN players, as injuries, suspensions and a post-2017 World Cup clear-out take their toll.

Whatever team turns out in the famous black and white jersey, it will be a tough game I’m certain!

Isaac Luke returns to international duty after being snubbed for the World Cup last year, which the Kiwis crashed out to Fiji in the quarter finals. However, they will be without two of their NRL superstars Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who have both been denied permission to play from their club Auckland Warriors.

As I said this will be a tough encounter, but I’m tipping an England win by six (6/4 at Betfred)

From a Saints point of view, it’s great to see five of our star players taking part...reward for an outstanding season so far,including very well deserved calls for both Luke Thompson and Tommy Makinson, alongside experienced internationals Jonny Lomax, Mark Percival and skipper James Roby.

It’s been a big week in RL with the new Betfred Super League Chief Executive Robert Elstone’s first involvement....and a few mixed responses to his ideas from the games stakeholders.

The former Everton FC CEO, has spoken about the need to raise the profile of our game and suggested numerous ways of doing this ahead of the upcoming round of broadcast negotiations.

One things I do know is, if we are to strengthen our game as a whole, everybody needs to work together including Super League, The RFL, all the way down to the community game...this is the future of our sport at the end of the day.

Raising the profile, therefore financial improvements in our game will only help us keep the top players in this country and in the Betfred Super League...players like Ben Barba! I know our Chairman Eamonn McManus is sick of hearing people talking about will he stay, will he go!

At the end of the day only Ben knows, and at the moment he certainly looks to be enjoying his rugby at Saints. Hopefully a Super League/Challenge Cup double triumph will help convince him to stay for the long haul.

There will be three Betfred Super League games going ahead this week alongside the International fixture.

Leeds vs Catalan (which I’ll go Leeds by ten (5/6 at Betfred), Wakefield face basement club Widnes, which I can only see one winner (Wakefield by 14 (6/4 at Betfred) and finally, the top four clash between Castleford Tigers and the Wigan Warriors.

Wigan will be without George Williams, John Bateman and skipper Sean O’Loughlin who are away in Denver, so could be up against it, hence my decision to back Castleford to a win by six (also 6/4 at Betfred).

Paul Sculthorpe