Toulouse make move to further pathway as clubs start to make first signings

James Gordon

Toulouse have added a second reserve club in the French Elite Championship by partnering with local side Gratentour.

With their senior team heavy favourites to earn promotion to Super League, the partnership with Gratentour will provide another level of pathway by playing in the Elite 2 Championship.

They will essentially become the reserve team to the Toulouse Olympique side that plays in the French Elite 1 Championship.

Respective presidents Remi Dufour of Toulouse and Lionel Touchet of Gratentour formalised the agreement last week.

Dufour said: “We realised that the passage between the Junior level and the Elite 1 was brutal for some young players, who could be discouraged and turned towards other sports.

“The goal is therefore to offer these players an alternative with the Elite 2, which would allow them to become more experienced at the senior level and have more time to perform in Elite 1.”

Signing news

Experienced forward Clement Durandal will play on for an 11th season at Avignon, who have also retained half back or hooker Fabien Jullien. Young centre Anthony Baudry has joined the Bisons after a year out, while Yannis Hamri will get another chance to impress after making his debut and a solitary appearance in the 2020/21 campaign.

Carcassonne have signed former St Esteve and Limoux youngster Hakim Belhadri, while hooker Ludovic Artiga will return for the Canaries after making five appearances last term.

Thibault Franck has made the move from St Gaudens to St Esteve. A former Catalans Dragons junior, Franck played in England for Hull KR and is being lined up to play alongside young prodigy Cesar Rouge.

Big moves to Elite 2

Joan Guasch has left Lezignan to join Elite 2 side Baho, who are looking to defend the championship they won in 2019. Guasch has scored 276 points in more than 60 games in Elite 1 over the past four seasons, and joins brother Maxime under the leadership of former Catalans Dragons powerhouse Jamal Fakir.

After Palau Broncos dropped out of the Elite divisions to go to the National Division, winger Francois Theresin has signed for Pia in Elite 2. He follows Ugo Perez, Alan Baby and Valentin Zefra to the Baroudeurs, who will be one of the favourites to earn promotion.