Off the Record: Rugby League Rumours and Gossip #171

No to Championship expansion as Ottawa delayed

It is unlikely that the Championship will expand in number to 16 teams for next season. It has been widely speculated that the league will increase, meaning a reprieve for the bottom two sides from relegation, which is what happened when the division increased to 14 at the end of last season. However, with Ottawa unlikely to take to the field in 2020, expanding the Championship would leave League 1 with just nine teams, including West Wales who have not won a game for nearly two years.

Ottawa straight to Championship?

Although it had been hoped that Ottawa would be ready for 2020, it is believed they haven’t been able to satisfy the requirements laid down for them by the RFL in time, and so they will now target 2021 – which is also expected to see the introduction of a New York based team. Whether those two teams would go straight in to the Championship, rather than League 1, may become a discussion point in the near future. With League 1 clubs expecting to be cut away from the professional game at the end of the current round of central funding, shoehorning the transatlantic sides straight in to the Championship appears to be the preferred option of many.

Burgess on the radar

Warrington’s search for a prop could lead them in the direction of out-of-contract England international George Burgess, currently serving a nine-match ban for eye-gouging. The Souths forward is likely to attract interest from other NRL clubs, and would command a hefty salary for any Super League club. Burgess has never played in Super League, having made his first grade debut back in 2012 for Souths after moving with twin brother Tom to follow older brother Sam.

Bradford find Bastian replacement

Bradford are lining up Widnes’ Phil Finney to replace John Bastian as their head of youth development. Bastian is off to Hull KR at the end of the season, while Finney has been chief executive at Widnes since their administration, having previously headed up their academy for the past decade, overseeing an enviable production line of players that have progressed to first team, including current Catalans back-rower Matt Whitley, young Warrington hooker Danny Walker and Toronto prop Anthony Mullally.

Bennion snubs Hull KR

Wales forward Gavin Bennion turned down an offer from Hull KR before committing his future to Swinton. The Robins, currently fighting relegation from Super League, are expecting a number of changes for next season following a change in coach, while they have recruited 43 players for the club’s new academy, after the City of Hull Academy partnership was abolished.

Warriors not going French

Despite reports Down Under linking Wigan with Parramatta full-back or wing Bevan French, he isn’t believed to be on the Warriors radar. Wigan have announced the signings of Jackson Hastings and Jake Bibby, as virtual direct replacements for George Williams and Dan Sarginson, while forward Mitch Clark fills the void left by Gabe Hamlin and Taulima Tautai.