Editor’s column: Toulouse must act fast and ref bashing must stop

James Gordon
Toulouse in monsoon conditions at the AJ Bell Stadium

Photo: James Heaton/News Images

The winter of excitement around French rugby league has soon been dampened by Toulouse and their troubled start to the new Super League season.

Their 20 year journey to the top flight will be nothing compared to the battle they have on their hands to avoid relegation.

Coach Sylvain Houles will be determined more than anyone to get things right and ensure they and French rugby league can ride on the crest of a wave.

The departure of Johnathan Ford has now been added to by confirmation that Mark Kheirallah won’t play for the club again.

BOMBSHELL: Mark Kheirallah will never play for Toulouse again says coach

Their recruitment even prior to those blows wasn’t as good as it ought to have been – and it will be interesting to see just how they can pick up in the coming weeks.

Even as a stern advocate of promotion and relegation, the lateness of the Championship Grand Final and the fact there are two clubs operating full-time squads in the second tier must have an impact.

The likes of, say, Joe Mellor and Craig Hall to name but two full-time players in the Championship, would certainly boost the Toulouse squad.

One hope is that it encourages them to blood more French players in the interim period – and maybe they can enjoy the sort of success Catalans Dragons have had with some of theirs.

It remains to be seen just how many games Toulouse will have to win to stay up; they’ll be disappointed that they’ve not been able to enjoy a honeymoon period in these first few weeks.

The man in the middle

While the RFL insist there has been no directive to clamp down on foul play at the start of the Super League season, criticism of referees remains high.

CONTEXT: RFL provide clarity on high tackle punishments

Chris Kendall was the man in the middle for Hull’s game against St Helens, televised live on Channel 4.

And he got the big decisions in the game absolutely right.

Only Luke Gale will know if there was malice in his attempt to charge down Jonny Lomax’s kick, but it amazed me that anybody thought that couldn’t be a red card.

Attempting to charge down a kick is one thing, to do so with your studs up – whether contact is made or not – just simply isn’t acceptable.

It will be interesting to see what charge the match review panel hands down to the Hull skipper.

The fuss over the red card diverted attention away from an earlier incident that saw Connor Wynne sinbinned.

One noticeable change in recent years has been the punishment handed out to ‘tip tackles’. No longer is it just the old ‘speak tackle’ which warrants a card.

Whether you agree with that is one thing.

But ultimately, by the letter of the law, Jack Welsby ending up above the horizontal with his face planted in to the turf was a sin bin.

Some questioned whether Welsby had played for the penalty.

But it was a brainless move by Hull on the last tackle to even lift his legs in the first place.

Instead of people constantly questioning the referee, perhaps people have to realise the players themselves now have to take responsibility for their actions.

Clearly keeping an eye on play-acting creeping in to the game is one thing, but just don’t put yourself in that position in the first place.

TV nasty

It will be quite a shock to the system this weekend when only two Super League games are televised.

Leeds welcome Catalans on Thursday night before Castleford travel to Hull KR on Friday for the two Sky Sports games.

There is no Channel 4 live game now until March 19, while Toulouse’s game at home to Warrington is not televised.

EYEBALLS: More than half a million tune in to Channel 4 live coverage

There are some games to stream on Sunday though from the Challenge Cup – as Batley take on the Royal Navy (BBC) and York host Newcastle (The Sportsman).

Then it’s Leigh against Widnes on Monday night, live on Premier Sports.

There is a plethora of NRL pre-season trial matches on Sky Sports across the weekend if that’s your thing.

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