Championship returns, but RFL ponders Toulouse Covid dilemma

Upfront: The League Express opinion – Monday 8th March 2021

Batley, Dewsbury, Bradford, Swinton. Featherstone, Oldham.

How good is it to once again be able to read about some matches involving Championship sides?

Those six swung back into action for the first time in almost a year with pre-season games on Saturday.

In addition, York (against Leeds) and Halifax (against Huddersfield) have had training games against Super League opposition.

There are further matches this week, including a big night for York, who play Hull in the first Rugby League match at their new LNER Community Stadium on Thursday.

League Express wishes the Knights good fortune and many successful years at their impressive new home.

It’s all building towards the return of the Challenge Cup the weekend after next, the big Championship kick-off over Easter and all being well, the return of fans to grounds from mid-May.

At last it feels like some progress is being made after the arrival of the pandemic and the many problems it has posed in all walks of life.

But no one can afford to get carried away, and there will be plenty of reminders of the damage coronavirus has already left in its wake, and will continue to cause.

When it comes to our own game, look at the situation regarding Toulouse Olympique.

The government’s tightening of the rules regarding elite athletes quarantining after being in France poses particular difficulties for those juggling rugby with other jobs (and let’s remember, London Broncos and Toulouse have the only entirely full-time set-ups in the competition).

As a result, many clubs are concerned about having to play games outside the UK before the regulations are eased.

And that has left the RFL with a dilemma about what to do about Toulouse’s early-season fixtures.

Reversing their home games is one possibility, but clubs aren’t keen because that might mean losing out on gate receipts further down the line.

Make Toulouse play their opening ‘home’ games at a neutral venue in the UK? Would that be fair either to Sylvain Houles’ side or those who did have to go to France while some of their rivals didn’t?

Simply write off the games that should have taken place at the Stade Ernest-Wallon as long as the current rules regarding travel to and from France remain in force?

It’s a possibility, especially given the league will be decided on win percentage, rather than points, to allow for potential postponements due to Covid.

It’s a problem for which there is no straightforward solution.

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