Make a pro-active change now Toulouse have reached Super League

James Gordon

It’s been almost 20 years in the making but Toulouse have finally made it to their promised land, Super League.

They won’t know for a good few weeks yet just what they’ll need to do to ensure that 2022 isn’t their only season in the competition.

Plans to re-structure to two leagues of 10 seem likely, which would put at least the bottom two teams at risk of relegation next season – possibly even three, if speculation is to be believed.

That means Toulouse will have to finish above two, or maybe even three, current Super League clubs to ensure they remain at the top table come 2023, and recruitment will no doubt start in earnest.

They don’t, as things stand, have the security that Catalans had when they entered in 2006. The Dragons were exempt from relegation for the first three seasons.

It seems unlikely that Super League will be able to realise the potential and opportunity of having two French teams inside 12 months.

Therefore, maybe the powers that be ought to be proactive.

When the idea to introduce a French team came in the early 2000s, leading to Catalans pipping Toulouse to join in 2006, they surely thought a second club would join a lot less than 16 years later.

So in 12 months time, if Super League is back down to one French team, it will be a waste.

The opportunity now presents itself to align the English (British, really) and French Championships side-by-side beneath Super League. While not protecting Catalans and Toulouse from relegation permanently, if they were to drop, their place would have to be taken by a team from France (should one be ready).

To have the Championship and League 1 sat alongside the French Elite 1 and Elite 2 Championships would be great progress – especially if an Anglo-French competition between the best from both countries can be established.

No more overseas teams should have to fight through the part-time leagues to make it to Super League. If there’s a strategic reason to have them, that should be abundantly clear – and funded – without them having to flog teams for two seasons.

Under no circumstances should Super League become a closed shop. But the right decisions need to be made to satisfy expansion and strategic growth alongside the established clubs.

Hail Houles

Toulouse coach Sylvain Houles will become a tremendous asset for Super League. A thoroughly knowledgable and passionate rugby league man, the competition will be all the better for his presence.

And based on the progress that we have seen in Toulouse over the years, he will no doubt have a plan to make them more than competitive in the top flight; as well as continuing the development of French players via the club’s Elite Championship side.

The Stade Ernest Wallon looked terrific live on Sky Sports. It’s about time Super League had a bit of pride in itself for how it presents things live on TV.

Ref rant

Whatever your opinion of the decisions made in the Super League Grand Final, Catalans’ president Bernard Guasch’s comments were classless.

At a time when his own country finds itself in a refereeing crisis, with some reports that there are just 19 available officials in France, his outburst is hardly likely to inspire young Frenchmen to take up the whistle.

His energies would be far better spent trying to help the French Federation invest and develop more officials to the stage where there can be French representation among the officials at all major finals.