World Club champions Leeds Rhinos will assist University of Gloucestershire All Golds as they begin life as a semi-professional Championship One club.
In a bold initiative as part of the Rugby Football League’s continuing expansion plans, the All Golds are the latest addition to the sport’s third tier for 2013.
They will join Northampton and Hemel Stags in Championship One next season and Leeds – who yesterday confirmed prolific centre Zak Hardaker has signed a new five-year deal – will aid their progression as much as possible.
RFL chief operating officer Ralph Rimmer said: “Once again we are breaking new territory for rugby league in terms of geographical expansion which will ultimately grow the player pool by giving increasing numbers of players from across the country opportunity to play at semi-professional level.
“The All Golds have a remarkable combination of history combined with some exciting plans for the future and with their set-up at the University they will be unique amongst their peers.”
It seems surreal that a university side can be thrust in to competition at such a high level and there will be obvious logistical issues to contend with but University of Gloucestershire director of sport Andy Pitchford maintains they can be competitive
“The team now play at the very highest level of student sport, with 12 student internationals, two full internationals and three students who have made their professional debuts this season,” he said.
“The professional club is the natural next step for those both on and off the pitch.”
The Cheltenham-based All Golds finished third last season in the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Super 8 League while, in April, they launched their junior academy and now run Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18 squads.
Aided by Leeds’s involvement in the South West, they are currently delivering rugby league in eight primary schools, 14 secondary schools and have seen an increase in participation by 550 new players since January.
Hardaker, meanwhile, will stay at Headingley until the end of 2016 after securing a new contract.
Hull FC’s Liam Kent has agreed a two-year deal while Hull KR last night revealed Jordan Cox is recovering from a ruptured spleen.
Hunslet have captured Batley prop Luke Menzies.
Wigan have re-signed centre Iain Thornley, who has been on loan at Leeds Carnegie from Sale Sharks.
Castleford stand-off Ryan McGoldrick has been suspended for two matches after admitting to illegal use of the forearm/elbow on Widnes’s Steve Pickersgill in his side’s 36-12 Stobart Super League win over the Vikings on Monday. Wakefield prop Matt James has been suspended for one match and fined £300 for striking St Helens’ Carl Forster with his elbow.