Super League set to expand

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The Independent Online
Club chairmen are expected today to accept plans to expand Super League to 15 teams, opening the door for sides in south Wales, Dublin and Humberside.

The League's chief executive, Maurice Lindsay, will be recommending the expansion, partly because clubs are clamouring for more home games, but also because of the emergence of attractive candidates.

A consortium of businessmen in south Wales has already applied to take the newly formed team in the principality, currently in the Second Division, to Cardiff Arms Park if they can be fast-tracked into Super League.

Two different bidders want to set up a side in Dublin, based on the Irish team that played in the Emerging Nations' World Cup last October, but with imported players to bolster their strength. The Humberside bid would depend on Hull and Hull Kingston Rovers pooling resources.

"We are not pushing them into it. We are leaving it to the local communities," said Lindsay, who is not fazed by the prospect of an odd number in the competition. "I am coming round to thinking that a bye round might be a good idea."

Lindsay also announced a revised itinerary for this autumn's Antipodean tour, one based on the assumption that Super League in Australia is unlikely to win its legal battle in time for that leg of the tour to take place.

The new plan is for Tests in Papua New Guinea and Fiji before a three- match series in New Zealand. Domestically, the blueprint is for a plate competition for lower division clubs knocked out in the early rounds of the Challenge Cup.

The new knock-out, a way of generating income for smaller clubs, will culminate in a final at Wembley. There is no room, however, for the Regal Trophy, the knock-out competition which has been running since 1971.

Lindsay condemned reports from Australia that the Australian Rugby League might prevent Gary Connolly and Jason Robinson playing for England in the European Championship in June. Both players are signed to join the ARL and have restrictive clauses in those contracts. "It is dreadful that the ARL should try to stop them playing for their country," he said.