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Slater set to keep his Kangaroos spot

Billy Slater is set to keep his spot in the Kangaroos' Rugby League World Cup side despite his involvement in an early-morning fight at a Manchester nightclub.
Slater set to keep his Kangaroos spot
by AAP

By Liam FitzGibbon

MANCHESTER, England, Nov 11 AAP - Billy Slater is set to keep his spot in the Kangaroos' Rugby League World Cup side despite his involvement in an early-morning fight at a Manchester nightclub.

The 30-year-old Melbourne star was arrested but later released and cleared on any wrongdoing after being attacked by a member of the public while celebrating with his Australian teammates in the early hours of Monday morning.

Slater said coach Tim Sheens was disappointed to hear of the incident but it's understood the Kangaroos coach will not consider dropping his first-choice fullback for Saturday's quarter-final against the US.

While England have axed or suspended players including Gareth Hock, James Graham and Zak Hardaker over reported alcohol-related incidents at the tournament, Slater is likely to escape punishment because of the circumstances of his incident.

Both Manchester police and Australian officials confirmed on Monday Slater was the victim and acted in self-defence after he was punched by a 40-year-old man outside the Mojo club.

Sheens is yet to comment on the incident, though the fact it happened at 2.40am would be of concern and could prompt him to rethink a decision not to set his players a curfew.

Slater said on Monday night he had spoken to the coach, who was disappointed the incident had taken the spotlight away from Australia's unbeaten run through the tournament's group stage.

"Tim was disappointed, like I was, that the focus was away from where it should be," Slater said.

"I've spoken to Tim, that was his main disappointment."

It was the second late-night incident of the campaign for the Kangaroos, with forward Josh Papalii robbed on the team's first night in Manchester last month, however they have had an otherwise incident-free campaign so far.

Slater said he could understand some people would question why players were out but insisted Australia's players had carried a professional approach throughout the tour.

"I can understand that perception ... but we're over here for eight weeks and it's important to enjoy and celebrate your wins," Slater said.

"But obviously you'd like to stay away from these situations.

"... That's why I'm mostly disappointed that the focus is on this because we have been preparing for each game really diligently and I thought the performance on the weekend was quite good."

Australia were on Monday belatedly celebrating their 50-0 win over Ireland, having arrived back to their Manchester base from Limerick late after Saturday night's win.

Slater would not say how many of his teammates were still out at the time of the incident.




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