Super League plans expansion

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The Independent Online

The Rugby League is expecting to construct an expanded Super League of 14 clubs from a likely 18 applications next year. The game's top brass disclosed yesterday that the top division's new structure will be announced next June.

It will consist of the 12 existing Super League clubs, plus two newcomers. Applications are already in from the Celtic Crusaders and Toulouse, while other candidates will include Widnes and Salford. Leigh, Whitehaven and Halifax are also possibilities.

The successful clubs will be guaranteed three years in Super League, but will be graded A, B or C according to how well they meet the competition's criteria.

At the end of those three seasons, the best qualified National League One side is guaranteed promotion, although it will not necessarily be the one that has most recently won the NL One Grand Final.

"It will be the one with the best all-round bid," said the League's executive chairman, Richard Lewis, "although it will need to have reached the NL One Grand Final at least once over the three years."

The least satisfactory C-graded club – according to the League's independent board – will go down, unless Super League decides to expand to 15. "There is no finite limit to the number of clubs in the Super League if more meet the criteria," said the League's chief executive, Nigel Wood.

On the international front, Lewis defended next year's 10-team format for the World Cup in Australia, even though it will mean that Wales, and the loser of tonight's final qualifier between Samoa and Lebanon, will miss out.