The game's most surprising success story, Lebanon, will take another step forward next month when they field a home-grown representative side for the first time against Oxford University.
The Lebanese have been involved in internationals since the 2000 World Cup, though with a largely Australian-based squad. For the visit by Oxford, however, they will draw on 25 players from the country's domestic competition.
Five home-based Lebanese players recently played for their country in the Mediterranean Cup, but this marks progress in the development work there, which is being partly financed by the British support group, 1895 International.
Oxford are treating the venture, which includes two matches on 9 and 13 January, as a warm-up for their annual Varsity Match.
Two Russian sides will be in tonight's draw for the third round of the Powergen Challenge Cup. Dinamo Moscow, who made history by becoming the first Russian side to win a tie at West Bowling last weekend, will be joined by Lokomotiv Moscow, who come into the competition at this stage.
There will also be four French sides in the draw, from Limoux, Pia and Villeneuve, as well as Union Treiziste Catalane, who are due to enter Super League in 2006.
All of the overseas sides must be drawn away from home, with the prospect of facing professional sides from the National Leagues, although the French sides could be at home in the next round, when Super League sides come into the competition.
Widnes have signed two teenaged players from neighbouring clubs, St Helens' Bruce Johnson and Adam Sidlow from Wigan. They are still looking to the southern hemisphere for a half-back and plan to put several players through their paces when they go to Australia next month for their pre-season training camp, during which they will represent Britain in the World Sevens in Sydney.