French target new bid

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The Independent Online

Three years after the demise of Paris St-Germain, the French federation is set to table another bid to join Super League.

Three years after the demise of Paris St-Germain, the French federation is set to table another bid to join Super League.

France were humbled 54-6 by New Zealand in their World Cup quarter-final at Castleford on Sunday, at the end of what has otherwise been a successful tournament for Les Bleus.

But the experience has left them aware that their players need to experience rugby league at a higher level on a regular basis if they are to compete successfully on the world stage.

A French spokesman, Tas Baitieri, said: "The Paris St-Germain experience was wonderful but it was a Band Aid job.

"This World Cup has really given French rugby league a shot in the arm and it has made us determined to give it another go in the south, possibly with Toulouse as the major centre.

"But we will probably try to emulate what are now going to be known as the New Zealand Warriors and play games all around France. That way the whole country can get behind 'Club France'."

Despite the quarter-finaldefeat, Baitieri sees this World Cup campaign as a potential launchpad for the game across the channel. He said: "We have established a platform now after years of being the paupers of the game.

"Gilles Dumas and the players know that they have set a standard and from this we have to take off into a period of sustained development.

"But our serious long-term objective - and we have already had meetings - is to get a team in the European Super League in 2002.

"We are aware that there is certain criteria but we will be making a formal application to Super League Europe next week. Once we get the criteria back we will have a look at it and put a business plan together."

The rush to join Super League has other important motives. Baitieri continued: "The French are very keen to participate in that because it is also a way of keeping players in rugby league. Half this squad have been poached by rugby union, which is a concern.

"If we don't do something about that then French rugby league runs the risk of disintegrating."

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