The Championship season is less than a week away, and it is certainly promising to be an absolute corker.
Barrow and Halifax reached the Grand Final last season, and they enter the new campaign as the teams to beat, but they have both lost in the past week to Widnes and Sheffield respectively, with both those teams undoubtedly wanting a say on how the top end of the league finishes this season.
Chuck in Featherstone and Leigh, as well as the likes of Batley and Toulouse who will be tough to beat at home, and it’s very hard to call the finishing places in the league this season.
We’ll try our best to predict how things will pan out in our full team previews which will be hitting the site on Monday, right through to the first game on Thursday between Leigh and Barrow.
Toulouse have kept themselves somewhat under the radar in the close season, and have recruited only two first teamers in Catalans’ French international Vincent Duport and Leeds back-rower Simon Worrall, on loan.
So when Eric Anselme came out in the press earlier this week, it was interesting to see what he had to say.
The Toulouse club captain said: “Our goal was to get some impressive results, but this year we really want to be qualifying for the play-offs.
“If we can make the final it will be great. We know it will be tough but I think we’ll do better than last season.
“It’s a great opportunity for the French Rugby League to have two teams in Super League. It’s getting bigger every day in Toulouse and the players really want to be in Super League in two years.”
The RFL have stated that one team from the Championship is guaranteed a place in Super League in 2012, subject to meeting its criteria. To qualify, clubs must appear in a Championship Grand Final or win the Northern Rail Cup.
With Toulouse not competing in the Northern Rail Cup, they must reach the Grand Final in 2010 to earn the right to apply.
Or do they?
The French side don’t seem to be worried too much about reaching the Grand Final, setting their stall out for the play-offs. If they genuinely want to be in Super League in 2012, they must do what it takes to reach the finals day at Warrington.
Unless they know something we don’t?
Also over the weekend we’ll be launching our Championship Fantasy League. You can pick your star 13 on a salary cap of £300,000 and lead them to glory. The top prize is two tickets to this year’s Championship Grand Finals day, as well as two tickets to the 2011 Northern Rail Cup final.