Rugby League: League in global game plan

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The Independent Online
FORGET ATTEMPTS to spread the word in the south of England, rugby league is planning to put itself on the global stage with the formation of a World League, involving teams based in major cities such as Sydney, Manchester and Johannesburg.

Based on the World League of American Football and rugby union's Super 12s, the competition would be paid for by television rights and played over a short season, kicking off in 2001.

A business consultancy firm has been engaged to provide costings, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Telegraph. The plans have been drawn up by delegates to the Rugby League International Federation, who are disillusioned by Australia's negative attitude towards the international game.

The newspaper quotes a source saying: "We have been advised by the firm we commissioned that the television companies would pay more for the rights than it would cost to run it. We've added up travel, accommodation, wages, everything and it would return a small profit."

The competition would not be a rebel league because it would have the blessing of the RLIF.

Like the American football equivalent, players would be largely draw from those who do not make the grade in Australia's National Rugby League and Super League Europe and those coming to the end of their careers.

The idea is to set up clubs in cities such as Toulouse, Manchester, Sydney, Tokyo, Johannesburg and Wellington and most of the players would be Australian and English. Sir Rodney Walker, Britain's delegate to the RLIF, was unavailable for comment last night.

On the home front, Super League's bottom club, Hull, defend a remarkable home record against Leeds tonight in a match which recent history suggests will be nowhere near as one-sided as their respective positions seem to dictate. Leeds have won just once in their last nine visits to The Boulevard, which include a 22-10 defeat that ended their winning run at the start of last campaign.

"The only memory the players have is of last season when we went there unbeaten and lost in perhaps our poorest performance," said the Leeds assistant coach, Damien McGrath.

The forgotten man of the Leeds pack, Martin Masella, makes his first appearance since April as the regular props, Barrie McDermott and Darren Fleary, are both resting minor knee injuries.

Hull, who have won just two matches this season, recall their Australian winger David Baildon, which enables the promising youngster Craig Poucher to move to full-back in place of Steve Prescott, who could miss the rest of the season after dislocating his elbow.

Salford, just three points clear of Hull at the foot of the table, have changed their name to the Salford City Reds to emphasise their local identity and links with the city's council.

Halifax have been told to produce evidence that Wigan breached the Super League's code of conduct by signing David Hodgson from Halifax this week. A meeting of Super League clubs yesterday decided that they could take no action until Halifax back up their accusation of an illegal approach.

Super League and the Rugby League are to hold further consultations before announcing any decisions over applications for Super League membership for next season.

Leigh, in the leading group in the Northern Ford Premiership, have signed Sheffield Eagles' back-row forward or stand-off, Paul Anderson, on a five-match loan.

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