Toulon set to join French Elite 1 Championship as Leon Pryce’s Montpellier step up to Elite 2

James Gordon

Toulon are set to join the Elite 1 Championship, to take the number of clubs in France’s top domestic league to 11 for the 2021/22 season.

The French Federation invited applications to expand the division earlier this year, and Toulon are currently in the midst of submitting the required paperwork to make the jump.

If successful, they will join champions Lezignan, Albi, Avignon, Carcassonne, Limoux, St Esteve, St Gaudens, Palau, Toulouse and Villeneuve in the top flight.

Next season is set to begin on October 3 2021, with the final round on May 29/30 2022.

Meanwhile, the Elite 2 Championship is expanded from 10 to 12 teams.

Montpellier Sharks, who recently appointed decorated Super League and former Great Britain stand-off Leon Pryce as director of rugby, have stepped up from the National Division alongside Gratentour.

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The Elite 2 season was cancelled last year due to COVID.

The other 10 clubs in the division are Baho, Carpentras, Entraigues, Ille, Lescue, Lyon, Pia, Salon, Villefrance and Villegailhenc.

If Toulon’s bid for Elite 1 is unsuccessful, they will be forced to drop down to the National Division, which is the third tier in France.

The changes are part of new president Luc Lacoste’s bid to professionalise and grow the French game, which has also included improvements to the national team.

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Trent Robinson and Laurent Frayssinous were appointed earlier this year to lead France in to the end of season World Cup.

The plan for the 2021/22 season across men’s, women’s, youth and wheelchair rugby has been presented to the executive board and approved by the steering committee.

Carcassonne have hinted they may be interested in joining Catalans and Toulouse in the RFL system, by joining League 1 within the next five years.

The Canaries finished top of the Elite Championship in 2020/21, but lost in the Grand Final to Lezignan.