Super League expands into Wales - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Super League expands into Wales

22/07/2008 11:31:27 PM Comments (0)

Wales will have a representative in Super League from next year after the Celtic Crusaders were awarded one of two new licences for 2009-2011.

All the existing franchises retained their Super League status with Salford the other additional team to be included following a decision to extend the competition from 12 to 14 sides and abolish relegation.

The decision, announced on Tuesday, meant that Widnes, one of the great names of English rugby league, missed out, as did Toulouse, who had been hoping to emulate the recent success of Catalans Dragons, a French outfit that joined Super League in 2006 and currently sit third in the table.

Leigh, Halifax and Featherstone also missed out and will not have another chance of joining the elite until 2012 when there could be a further expansion of the competition.

The new 14-team league will have three teams based outside the 13-man code's traditional strongholds in northern England: the Crusaders, the Dragons and London-based Harlequins.

Crusaders are based in Bridgend, a traditional stronghold of Welsh rugby union. They are currently third in the second tier of British rugby league with a squad coached by Australian John Dixon which is dominated by his compatriots.

Crusaders chief executive David Thompson said: "We are absolutely delighted but we know all we have done is get to the starting line. We have got a lot of work to do over the next three years to make sure we continue to grow and become stronger."

Licences were awarded on four criteria - quality of stadiums, strength of fanbase, financial stability and playing strength, which includes youth development.

Toulouse president Carlos Zalduendo expressed his disappointment.

"We're disappointed because we had worked on this since 2002. We managed to bring together all the local authorities and economic partners, the chamber of commerce and the tourism office," said Zalduendo.

"Nevertheless nothing has stopped for Toulouse who are actively preparing for next season with the arrival of Gilles Dumas (former France coach) as general manager and Catalans Dragons physical trainer Julien Lehudie."

Widnes chairman Steve O'Connor, who rescued the club from administration last year, said the knock back would not affect his commitment to the club's development.

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