Could a combined second French team work in Super League?

James Gordon

It’s the 10th season of Catalans Dragons in Super League in 2015, yet the addition of a second French team was largely ignored in the new era discussions.

Toulouse have been banging on the door since long before even 2006, and that led to a relatively forgetful three year stint in the Championship up to 2011, in which they failed to satisfy the qualifying criteria for a licence that ultimately went to Widnes.

A game in June 2013 between Catalans and Hull KR showcased the potential for Super League in Toulouse, with more than 15,000 turning out at the rugby union ground.

It seems that the rugby league club, Toulouse Olympique, are seeking guarantees over their future inclusion to Super League before going ahead with the necessary ground developments they need to host the top flight.

The difficulty now, is working out just how they can be incorporated in to the league, following the re-structure.

They were over for a Super League meeting in Warrington last month, and beat a youthful Wolves side in a friendly at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

A league and cup double in 2014 was a timely boost for Toulouse, yet there doesn’t seem to be much clamour from anyone at the RFL or in the UK, for them to join the Dragons as a second French club.

If the Dragons are to continue in Super League long term, which seems extremely likely, then it is surely time to look at introducing further teams from France or even beyond.

Otherwise, it’s holding the game back, especially in France. There should be (at least) two or none at all – if none, focus on strengthening the French league so that it can compete with low end of Super League.

Assuming that the problem is to do with not one club being able to sustain a serious bid, could one of Catalans’ recent pre-season friendlies point to a solution?

Laurent Frayssinous’ men took on a Chevaliers Cathares line-up, made up of players from three French Elite clubs Carcassonne, Limoux and Lezignan.

Information on the Chevaliers Cathares make up and its origins is sparse, but perhaps the introduction of a combined French side to play in Super League, which could play four games a season in three different towns could help to spread the game.

It would also give French players another elite club to play for, and ensure the national team isn’t dominated by the Dragons as it has been in recent years.