Only nine teams to play in French Elite 1 Championship in 2021/22
There will be only nine teams in the French Elite Championship top division when the season re-starts in October.
Although there has been talk of expansion since the arrival of Luc Lacoste as president of the French Federation, it will enter the new season with one team less.
Palau Broncos have opted to withdraw from Elite 1, while Toulon – who had applied to make the step up from the Elite 2 Championship – will remain in the second tier.
Their withdrawals leave champions Lezignan, minor premiers Carcassonne and the respective reserve teams of Catalans (St Esteve) and Toulouse alongside Albi, Avignon, Limoux, St Gaudens and Villeneuve in the competition next season.
OPINION: A French Revolution – 5 things French RL needs to achieve before 2025
The season will start on the weekend of 16/17 October with Villeneuve given the first bye week.
Champions Lezignan host St Gaudens, while St Esteve travel to Limoux for another eye-catching opener.
There’s a big match between Avignon and Carcassonne, and Toulouse get underway with a trip to Albi.
The Elite 1 Championship final will take place on the weekend of May 28/29.
After the pandemic put paid to the last two seasons, the Elite 2 Championship will begin in October with 13 teams.
BIG OPPORTUNITY: Rugby League was once huge in France, why can’t it be huge again?
New Toulouse partners Gratentour and Montpellier Sharks have been added to the competition.
Toulon’s inclusion is a little surprising, given it was previously reported it was either Elite 1 or the National Division for the Marlins.
Clubs recently appealed for a delay to the start of the season, which had originally been slated for the middle of September. The French Federation has since approved a 15 day delay.
The other 10 teams are: Baho, Carpentras, Entraigues, Ille, Lescure, Lyon, Pia, Salon, Villefranche, Villegailhenc.
Seven clubs will play in the Elite Women’s Championship, while six clubs will line up in the Elite Wheelchair competition.