Six Nations changes will affect cup schedule

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The Independent Online

The Rugby Football League is digesting the implications of rugby union changing the schedule of its Six Nations tournament from 2003 onwards.

The Challenge Cup traditionally slots into alternate weekends between the home internationals in the BBC's schedules and television and sponsorship income from that competition is now one of the RFL's very few visible means of support.

The League agreed a new, five-season deal with the BBC last year and was confident yesterday that it would still have prime terrestrial TV slots for its showpiece, even if that means some rescheduling now that the union internationals are to be played over a condensed period. "We are looking into what it might mean for the Cup," said the RFL's media manager, John Huxley.

One possibility many would welcome is that the competition could move to later in the season, rather than the current, unsatisfactory situation, where it is completed before Super League is properly underway.

Coverage of this season's Challenge Cup, newly sponsored by Kellogg's, begins with a double-header from the third round on 9 February.

The Leeds centre, Tonie Carroll, had surgery on a shoulder injury yesterday, in a bid to be ready for the start of the cup campaign.

London Broncos have returned to the Northern Ford Premiership club Whitehaven with an improved bid for their England Under-21 international stand-off, Rob Purdham. The Broncos have already had one offer turned down. However, the Whitehaven coach, Paul Cullen, said: "They have since been back and made a second application, which is being considered."

The former Great Britain prop, Steve Molloy, released at the end of last season by Huddersfield, is joining Batley, rather than returning to his home-town club, Oldham.

The Great Britain student team – known as the Academic Lions – will try to prevent a clean sweep by the touring Queensland Students at Hull tonight. The Queenslanders have so far beaten the home nations and the Emerging Lions, but this final game will be their sternest test.

The British side is without a number of students who have commitments in the NFP, including the highly-rated Paul Thorman, younger brother of Huddersfield's Chris, who is needed for Gateshead Thunder's game against Featherstone on Sunday. Hunslet's Jermaine Coleman will play in a side which is confident of challenging the tourists' unbeaten record.

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