Five clubs to bid for Super League status

Five championship clubs have been invited to apply for Super League membership from 2012 onwards. Halifax, Featherstone, Barrow, Batley and Widnes have all fulfilled the playing criteria by either reaching a Championship Grand Final or winning the Northern Rail Cup.

The clubs also have to meet a series of minimum standards off the field, but the Rugby League has already promised that at least one of them will be promoted. They have until 3 December to submit their applications.

England will encounter some familiar faces when they meet the New Zealand Maori in their first match Down Under next Saturday. The Maori will have Castleford's Rangi Chase and recent Wakefield signing Jeremy Smith, as well as the former Leeds centre, Clinton Toopi, and Weller Hauraki, who made a big impression playing for Crusaders this season.

Also in the Maori side for the warm-up game in Auckland will be the Australia dual international Timana Tahu, who now wants to play for New Zealand. Tahu has denied allegations that he racially abused an indigenous player during a recent tournament in Australia.

England flew out to New Zealand last night, after making arrangements for players and coaches to attend the funeral of Terry Newton, the Test hooker who was found dead two weeks ago.

Greg Eastwood, the Kiwi forward who failed to settle at Leeds, has rejoined the Canterbury Bulldogs on a three-year contract.