Union Treiziste Catalan are set to win the contest between three French clubs for a place in Super League.
The club, the product of a merger between two clubs in Perpignan, are to be given the nod, ahead of Toulouse and Villeneuve, but it could be 2005 before they are admitted.
A Rugby League delegation watched all three teams play in France last weekend and has since studied their applications and business plans.
A meeting of Super League clubs yesterday accepted a recommendation that UTC should be the favoured applicants and that 2005 should be the date for the first French participation in the competition since the demise of Paris St-Germain in 1997. If UTC can convince the League that they will be ready for next season, however, they could be admitted for 2004.
Their plan is to play matches throughout the Catalan region, where rugby league has retained its popularity better than in other parts of southern France.
Warrington have flown out for warm weather training in Lanzarote without several of their first-team squad. Jerome Guisset has been released to play for France in the World Nines in Sydney, while Rob Smyth is going to the same tournament with England.
Nathan Wood, Dale Laughton, Matt Sturm and Dean Busby are injured, Mark Hilton is sitting his BSc exams, while Lee Penny's partner is about to give birth. The new signings – Ian Sibbit, Mike Wainwright and Brent Gross – are all on the trip.
The Wolves will return in time to play the London Broncos in a pre-season friendly on 2 February – the match in which the Broncos plan to field the winners of their "Prop Idol" auditions for aspiring players.
The National Rugby League in Australia has stopped short of banning gang tackling, as urged to do by North Queensland's former Leeds coach, Graham Murray.
The NRL has ruled that sides will still be able to commit extra men to the tackle, but that referees should penalise players flopping onto an already tackled opponent merely to slow down play.
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