Whatever your views on the pros and cons of the suggested restructuring of British rugby league, one thing now looks sure: two teams are going to get relegated from Super League at the end of next season.
But is that enough?
I’d like to see three get the chop – and Toulouse given entry into the top flight.
Is there a better way to reinvigorate the competition than by bringing a second French team to the party? There’s a big, wide world out there. Bigger than the M62, that’s for sure. If Toulouse can bring with them a rumoured French TV deal, even better.
London aside, it’s no coincidence that Super League’s most successful clubs come from the areas with the largest populations. A successful future for rugby league is based around an acceptance that big cities and big towns will form the basis of the sport’s elite. (That’s not to knock clubs from smaller towns – it’s just a reality of modern sport.)
If we’re going to go radical with a two-divisions-into-three format, let’s use that as the perfect opportunity to introduce a French derby into Super League.
Nigel Wood has already been quoted as saying that Toulouse are in “pole position” for any future expansion.
It would take a master orator to persuade the current Super League clubs that another of their number should be chopped to make way for Carlos Zalduendo’s magnificent moustache.
But if somebody – anybody – in the sport’s corridors of power is hiding world-class communication skills, now’s the time to use them.
For balance, here’s one good thing and one bad thing about the new 2×12, 3×8 league structure.
First, the positive: Magic Weekend would finally mean something.
It’s my understanding that in the first batch of 11 games, each team would play five home games and five away, with the Magic Weekend being the last round of fixtures before the split into three eights.
That finally gives Magic a meaning. Teams will be fighting for their place in the top eight in a do-or-die situation, rather than the current set up where Magic is simply an extra fixture crammed into an already full calendar.
Now the bad: Championship clubs are being sold a myth.
There are currently 14 Super League teams. If Toulouse do come in, that’s 15 teams who are likely to take part in the top two divisions of eight – meaning only one Championship team is going to get a shot against the big boys.
If Toulouse don’t come in, there’s still only room for two Championship clubs in that top 16. In effect, the Championship will be relegated from the second tier to the third tier.
Congratulations to St Helens and Nathan Brown. Wins don’t come much gutsier than the effort they produced at Headingley on Monday night.
Saints are likely to get some bodies back in the coming weeks, but youngsters like Mark Percival and Alex Walmsley have now shown they are more than good enough to play Super League on a regular basis.
Follow Neil Barraclough on Twitter @neilbarraclough
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