England v New Zealand: Denver Test backed by NRL-based England players

Sam Burgess leads out England team-mates in the Tonga World Cup semi-final last week
Gareth Widdop, Josh Hodgson, Thomas Burgess and his brother Sam helped England reach the 2017 World Cup final

Head coach Wayne Bennett and Australia-based players including Sam Burgess and Gareth Widdop have backed England's Test against New Zealand in Denver, despite 'safety concerns'.

Spreading the sport in the USA is a key aim for rugby league and the Test is on a designated representative weekend.

But several National Rugby League clubs have expressed fears over their players competing at high altitude.

The game takes place at the Mile High Stadium, 5,280 feet above sea level.

As the air is thinner at high altitudes, athletes' muscles do not operate in an optimum state, and one of the NRL clubs' concerns over the game on 23 June is the lack of acclimatisation time available for players on the trip, along with travel time.

However, the situation is no different for National Football League players in American football, who routinely travel to play the Denver Broncos each season.

Denver's Sports Authority Field at Mile High stadium
The Mile High Stadium is home to the NFL's Denver Broncos and has a capacity of 76,125

A statement issued on behalf of Bennett and England's eight leading NRL players read: "We would like to place on record our absolute support.

"England chief medical officer, Dr Chris Brookes, has made it clear to us that he has no additional concerns with this game being played in Denver."

There are no club fixtures over the weekend of 23-24 June, with Australia-qualified players involved in the State of Origin series while Tonga, Samoa, Papua New Guinea and Lebanon are playing in the Pacific Test Invitational at Sydney's Campbelltown Stadium.

England played Samoa there in a mid-season Test last May and this year's trip to Colorado has been backed by Burgess and his brothers Thomas and George, who all play for South Sydney Rabbitohs.

The statement was also signed by Widdop's St George-Illawarra team-mate James Graham, Newcastle Knights' Chris Heighington and Canberra Raiders pair Elliott Whitehead and Josh Hodgson.

The 2025 World Cup is expected to be hosted in North America and, following the introduction of Canadian side Toronto Wolfpack to the English game, it is hoped that a team from New York will join them.

"We believe that the 2017 Rugby League World Cup in Australia demonstrated the value of the international game to our sport," the statement continued.

"We all collectively said at the time that it was important we took the opportunity to try and grow the game globally and believe that this mid-season window provides the perfect opportunity for the sport to showcase itself to a new public in North America."

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