By DOUG THOMSON AND STEVE BRADY
Coach Danny Ward says he has “no issues” about London Broncos being the only side made to play Toulouse Olympique in France during the opening stages of the Championship season.
The RFL Board has confirmed that part-time clubs will not be required to fulfil away fixtures against Toulouse until the lifting of current UK quarantine regulations, which means players and staff have to isolate for at least five days on returning to the UK, therefore impacting those with other jobs.
As a result, the French side’s scheduled home games against Featherstone on May 1 and Widnes on May 8 have been postponed and will only be rearranged if a suitable date can be found.
However, as a full-time club, like Toulouse, London’s game there on April 8 will go ahead, with coaching staff and players able to work within a ‘bubble’ during the following quarantine period.
“There will be no complaints from me,” Ward told League Express.
“We are in the business of playing matches, and we’re happy to go over there and take on Toulouse in what will be a big and important game for both clubs.
“The situation is quite complex, and there are different points of view on what should and shouldn’t happen, which is fair enough.
“I can only speak for myself and my players, and for us, there are no issues. We are looking forward to visiting Toulouse.”
Officials at ambitious Toulouse say they will rise to the challenge of gaining promotion to Super League “against all odds”.
“It is a blow,” said a club spokesman.
“But we understand that the RFL have to take steps under the current UK guidelines.
“It is another major obstacle for us, following the difficulties of last season but every challenge we face makes us more determined and focused on our objectives.”
French government restrictions on international travel were relaxed last week, allowing visitors from the UK to enter France without quarantine, and Toulouse officials are hoping the UK follows suit in the near future.
“Normally these changes in travel restrictions are reciprocal and we’re hoping if conditions improve that the UK will eventually relax quarantine,” said the Toulouse spokesman.
“In the meantime, we have to find ways of filling the gaps in our home schedules and we are working on plans for training fixtures against French teams to keep the squad match-fit.”
Rescheduling the Featherstone and Widnes games depends upon potential clashes with ties in the Challenge Cup and 1895 Cup.
While Championship clubs are due to play 22 regular-season matches, the division will be determined on win percentage, given that fixtures could be unfulfilled.
“It is a complex and evolving situation and we are working closely with all authorities on the best possible solutions,” added the Toulouse spokesman.
“If we are going to achieve our ultimate goal of gaining promotion to Super League, it seems like we will have to do it against all odds.”
Toulouse were beaten 40-28 in a pre-season game at Catalans on Saturday after leading 24-10 at half-time, thanks to a hat-trick by fullback Mark Kheirallah.
Coach Sylvain Houles fielded new signings Mitch Garbutt, Dominique Peyroux and Joseph Paulo and said: “I thought we looked strong, particularly in the first half.
“It was an invaluable experience for our players as we prepare for the new season.”
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