BBC considering coverage of France-England games in Toulouse as officials plot unique event

A UNIQUE triple-header day of Rugby League in Toulouse is planned for Saturday, June 29 with England’s men and women on international duty against France followed by a top Championship clash.

As part of Rugby League’s 90th anniversary in France this year, the French Federation announced in January its plans to play a double-header against England, although a formal agreement on the event was only announced last week.

That left little time to rearrange Toulouse Olympique’s match against Featherstone Rovers, which will now take place on the same day after the internationals at Stade Ernest Wallon.

France coach Laurent Frayssinous is likely to pick several Toulouse players for the national side leaving the Olympians’ coach Sylvain Houles with a potentially weakened team against Rovers.

Houles told League Express: “It’s a special day for Rugby League in Toulouse and we need to focus upon that and I will deal with fielding the strongest team possible against a strong opponent.

“It’s going to be a real treat for supporters. But for me as Toulouse coach it’s not ideal.

“I understand the importance of the event, the 90th anniversary and the internationals, which is great, but on the sports side as a team it’s going to hit us hard.

“I have spoken with Laurent (Frayssinous) and he will take any of our players that he chooses. Of course every player wants to play for his country and I fully support that, but I don’t think it’s fair on our team.

“It’s not Laurent’s fault, it’s just the decision to put a Championship game on the same day as an international game. I just don’t get it.

“But I can’t control it and we will deal with it as best as we can.”

Toulouse’s director of sport, Cedric Garcia, explained: “When we got the news a few weeks ago, we thought about postponing the Featherstone game. But with the Championship being so condensed, we could not find another date.

“So why not do a huge event with a triple header in our stadium? I believe that events of that kind can help us attract a lot of media coverage and a big crowd of people from outside of our sport. 

“We have a lot of work ahead, but I am convinced the result will be fantastic: a perfect date, great venue and three amazing games.

“On the sport side, Sylvain has been part of the process all along and while it is not ideal with the risk of losing some players for this important game, he knows we didn’t have the choice. 

“And we will be clear with our players that the priority is the French national team.”

Up to 500 Featherstone supporters are understood to have already arranged transport, accommodation and tickets for their trip to Toulouse, so any postponement would have created difficulties for them.

Now the French Federation and the club are encouraging as many French supporters to attend, whilst hoping that England fans will also make the trip to fill as many seats as possible in the 19,000-capacity stadium.

The game will be broadcast live on TV in France and the RFL will arrange live-streaming on the Super League+ service, although the BBC is understood to be taking an interest in covering the internationals with discussions still taking place.

Game day at Toulouse on June 29 will be as follows (all local times): 3:30pm France v England women; 6.00pm France v England men; 9.00pm Toulouse Olympique v Featherstone Rovers.

Olympique chairman Olivier Dubois is hoping that the event will be a huge boost for Rugby League in Toulouse.

“This is the first time that three high-level matches have taken place on the same day and on the same pitch,” he said.

“It’s a rare event, which is a real asset and a magnificent showcase both for our sport and for our club. I am convinced that we will witness an exceptional day, which will certainly be the biggest Rugby League event of the year. It’s a magnificent and ambitious project.”

FFRXIII President Dominique Baloup said: “The Federation is delighted with the agreement, which will consolidate and strengthen the exposure of Rugby League in France.

”Our game celebrates 90 years of proud history this year and we want to put on a special day to mark the occasion. We hope everyone joins us in this unique event.”