BULLS head coach John Kear has defended Wales' decision not to play on the mid-season international weekend, citing a desire to protect Championship and League One players who have missed a year of rugby league.

Kear has coached the Welsh national team since 2014, and has combined that with his role at Bradford since 2018.

He makes no secret of his love for the international game, but while Wales' women's and wheelchair teams will play Test matches against England on the weekend of June 25-26 to help their preparations for the end-of-season World Cup, there will be no fixture for the men.

Wales still hope to play a warm-up match in the autumn ahead of their opening World Cup game against Cook Islands at Leigh on Wednesday, October 27.

Head coach Kear said in a statement: "For some of our squad playing in the Championship and League One, this is the first time they've played for the best part of 12 months and they'll already have a congested fixture calendar with their clubs.

"We don't want to put them in a position where they're possibly having to play for their club and country in such a short space of time.

"We're looking at an international shortly before the World Cup starts and planning some opportunities where we can get together during the season."

The absence of a senior men's international in mid-season will free up St Helens' Wales winger Regan Grace to play for the Combined Nations All Stars against England on June 25.