Super news for Widnes

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Widnes, one of the famous clubs due to be swallowed up in the many planned mergers, were given their own place in the new European Super League yesterday after a change of plan across the channel created a vacancy.

Only one French side, probably based in Paris, will take part in the inaugural season of the new league, which is scheduled to start next March.

A meeting between British and French officials yesterday decided that the game in France would not, at the moment, be capable of entering sides from Toulouse and Paris, as originally planned.

The option of bringing in a second side at a later date is being left open, but halving the French involvement, for now at least, waters down the international flavour of the venture considerably.

The hopes of Jacques Fouroux for a major revolution in French rugby league are clearly not far enough advanced for him to promise two competitive teams for the proposed Super League.

But, if that is a disappointment for the French, it is great news for Widnes, who will advance to the Super League in their own right rather than being expected to manufacture an unhappy merger with Warrington.

Batley and Keighley have vowed that their campaign to follow the Chemics into the Super League will gather pace. Steve Ball, the Batley chairman, said yesterday: "Only the opening shots have been fired as yet. The real campaign is yet to come. Right is on our side. We shall win through."

Ball told a meeting of both clubs' supporters shortly before a new £500,000 stand was opened at Mount Pleasant last night that the Super League format, apparently set in stone at the start of the week, could soon be wiped clean.

He said he was confident that the integrity and justice that has carried the game through the past 100 years would surface again.

Both promotion-chasing clubs have plans to keep up the pressure on the game's administrators. Their first objective is to secure the two promotion places that would normally bring admission into the First Division. The second target is a berth in the truncated Premier Division operating from September to January.

n A three-Test series between Australia and New Zealand will go ahead this season despite divisions caused by the proposed Super League, Ken Arthurson, the Australian Rugby League's chairman, said yesterday. Arthurson said Australia will play its three home matches against New Zealand, even if Kiwi selectors name players who have signed to play in the rebel Super League. Arthurson and his New Zealand counterpart, Graham Carden, agreed at a meeting in Sydney to proceed with the scheduled series, which begins on 23 June in Brisbane.