DCSIMG

Plans afoot to build semi-pro team for rugby's 13-man code

SCOTLAND could have a semi-professional team playing in Rugby League Division Two within the next couple of years.

Moves are afoot to create the tartan equivalent of Celtic Crusaders who, within three years of being formed and playing out of Bridgend in South Wales, have just earned a Super League franchise.

If the scheme materialises, then the best home-based Scots could have weekly matches against some of the 13-a-side code's most recognisable club names including Rochdale Hornets, Barrow and Gateshead Thunder at a time when Edinburgh is emerging as the game's power-base north of the Border.

Details emerged when Steve McCormack, head coach of Scotland's rugby league side, announced details in the Capital of plans for this winter's World Cup bid in Australia.

Making it clear there was much to play for up to and beyond the global tournament for which he will trim a provisional squad of 40 players – all of whose names are under wraps – to 24 by mid-September, McCormack said: "Plans are at a very early stage but, within the next two to three years, there could be a Scottish team operating in division two."

Assistant Dave Rotherham added: "This is the route which has taken Celtic Crusaders to Super League – two years ago they entered division two and consolidated before winning the title in 2007 on the way to a franchise."

McCormack, 34, a former Wigan Warriors prospect, who turned to coaching with Widnes and Salford Reds after being invalided out of playing by a shoulder injury aged 19 took the opportunity also to welcome on board new Scottish World Cup sponsors Head Resourcing and Carlyle Associates besides appointing a top domestic coach to his panel.

Angus McNab, who guided Edinburgh Eagles to the retention of their Scottish Conference title with a 54-4 win over Fife Lions, said: "If a Scottish team are admitted to the national leagues then I envisage we could hold our own with a large number of home-based players.

"I've identified at least five premiership rugby union players with the ability to do really well in rugby league where they could boost career prospects.

"For example, John Cox, of Currie, was one of the stars of our team that went through all eight matches in the Scottish Conference unbeaten, scoring a 60-metre try in the final which is unusual for a prop forward.

"Others could follow his example especially if we can gain entry to the national leagues and there are parallels to be drawn with Celtic Crusaders who recently attracted over 100 players for under-19 trials."

First up for McNab is to coach Edinburgh in the national conference knock-out tournament where they will represent Scotland against seven regions of England and Wales possibly starting this weekend at Bridlington Lions. McNab said "This quarter-final tie was originally scheduled for Saturday week but the Scottish amateur team I coach are playing England at Lasswade that day so negotiations are underway to re-arrange the club match.

"Whatever happens there is still time for home-based players to figure in the squad for Australia as the quality is there."

McCormack, who was seconded to the Scotland job three years ago through a developmental programme, added: "There is no obligation to pick home-based Scots with so much talent available down south, including Super League, where the likes of skipper Danny Brough and former union internationalist, Jon Steel, play.

"But there are players capable of making a challenge for a place in a World Cup that can be the springboard for some exciting happenings in Scotland especially if the team can enter the national leagues."

Meanwhile, Scotland will kick off their World Cup campaign against France on Sunday, October 26 before facing Fiji the following Wednesday.

Under the rules of the tournament, the winners of Scotland's pool will then play off against the winners of a group containing Tonga, Ireland and Samoa.

This would then provide entry to a group drawn from big guns Australia, New Zealand, England and Papua New Guinea and featuring three to qualify.

McCormack said: "France have been strengthened by so many of their players representing Catalan Dragons in Super League but we are not without hope despite many people writing us off which is a great incentive to prove them wrong.

"This is particularly the case as a real chance exists to set up a Scotland versus England clash in a World Cup which would get everybody sitting up and taking notice."

 
 
 

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