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League One focus, by Samuel JACKSON

Regularly, find on Toulouse Olympique RL website Samuel JACKSON’s chronicles, young subject of Her Majesty expatriated in the Southwest of France, who shares his passion for rugby league. Here is the third article of his chronicles.

Hello, my name’s Samuel Jackson and I am a student from England, currently living in Pau. As a passionate rugby league supporter since my childhood, I follow the game very closely, with a particular interest in the international side of things. From now on I will be writing articles bringing you the latest news from the Super League and other UK competitions. I hope you enjoy them. Sam

So it’s official: TO are in League One! In 2016 Toulouse will return to cross-channel competition and this time they’ll have a clear pathway all the way to Super League. Then it seems about time to take a look back over the season just gone over in England and the one facing the team next year.

The 2015 season saw new blood in the tournament as 5 teams (Keighley, Swinton, North Wales Crusaders, Rochdale et Barrow) were relegated from the Championship to make way for the new format and Coventry Bears joined the league from the amateur ranks. Keen to bounce straight back up to the second tier, there was fierce competition at the top but it was in fact a club that had been in League One for the best part of a decade, Oldham Roughyeds, who topped the final standings. They were also crowned champions, sealing promotion in the process, when they beat Keighley Cougars in the Grand Final at their home, Whitebank Stadium. Keighley had a second crack at promotion through the play-offs but were cruelly denied as Swinton pipped them at the post, 29-28, only a week after qualifying with another one point win against York. At the other end of the table, South Wales Scorpions propped up the league with only a single victory for their troubles. Thankfully for their fans, the new ownership in the Valleys are making some promising noises.

Oldham and Swinton may not be on the agenda for TO XIII next year but they will take on two more of the sport’s old names in Hunslet and Doncaster. Doncaster may have endured a very difficult season in the Championship but Hunslet Hawks fought out a dogged relegation battle and their squad will be bolstered by loanees from their partner club, Super League champions Leeds Rhinos. Toulouse will cover a lot of ground on their travels, through Wales, London, Oxford and York. The structure has been changed once again for 2016 and resembles more closely the Super 8’s system in the leagues above it. All 15 teams will play each other once before splitting into a top 8 and bottom 7. After a further seven matches, the top 2 in the Super 8 will play off for League One victory and promotion, the loser of which will enter a 4-team playoff for the second promotion place. The bottom 7 will play each other once again and the top two from that will fight out the League One Shield. It may be a slightly unusual concept but hopefully it will maintain interest throughout the year. And hopefully, Toulouse will be left smiling at the end of it.