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NRL All-Stars game put on hold for next season

The NRL have confirmed the annual Indigenous All Stars game will be shelved for 12 months due to the large number of players involved in the Rugby League World Cup.

More than 120 top names from the 16 NRL clubs are expected to be taking part in the World Cup which kicks-off in Cardiff in October with the final taking place at Old Trafford in Manchester on November 30.

The All Stars game, which has become a staple of the NRL pre-season campaign since it began in 2010, was scheduled for February in Brisbane.

However, with the test stars such as Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Greg Inglis and Justin Hodges only likely to return to training three weeks before the game the decision was taken to rest the match for next year.

It will instead be replaced by a week-long festival of indigenous rugby league programs in Newcastle, topped off by a trial match between the Knights and an indigenous team made up of players from the NSW Koori Rugby League Knockout and Murri Carnivals in Queensland.

Two weeks prior to the festival, those players will be hosted for a week by NRL clubs, providing them the chance to experience an elite NRL playing environment with access to coaching, nutrition and training advice.

NRL All Stars coach Wayne Bennett said resting the game was the right decision to make as it would lose its importance if the biggest names were unavailable.

"One of the problems the players had was that they wouldn't come back to training until the end of January after the World Cup ... and we couldn't guarantee any quality football with such a short preparation," Bennett said.

"This is the best thing to happen as it's a wonderful concept and I've certainly embraced it and so have the All Star players.

"I am just pleased that we have been able to discuss it, take it forward and take into account what the needs of the players are because it's important to them."

The NRL's general manager of marketing and commercial Paul Kind said the decision was by no means the end of the All Stars game and discussions were planned with the Queensland government to stage the game in Brisbane once again.

Kind also confirmed the proposed pre-season nines competition, which is likely to be rubber-stamped later this year, would always take a back seat to the All Stars game.

"We've said to the 16 clubs and to the organisers in New Zealand who are proposing the nines that the priority event in our pre-season calendar is the All Stars," Kind said.

"It is a celebration that absolutely everybody in this business is committed to."If we do enter an agreement on nines, it won't be on the condition that the top 40 players are required.

"Whereas it is a requirement for the All Stars because the day we don't get the best players is the day it doesn't become an all stars contest."

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