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Irish rugby union?s defensive coach Mike Ford has thrown his weight behind plans to establish a new rugby league competition in Ireland.
Plans are afoot to launch a new 18-team 13-a-side competition in Ireland next summer, with applications invited from existing sports clubs. The competition will aim to replicate the success of the 52-team Rugby League Conference operating in England and Wales, which includes a number of successful dual-code clubs and was won this year by a Bridgend side that included John Devereux, Kevin Ellis and Allan Bateman.
Ford, who himself enjoyed a successful rugby league career with Wigan, Castleford and Great Britain, is firmly behind these proposals and believes that Ireland's rugby union players can gain a great deal from sampling the 13-man code.
?Rugby union can learn a great deal from its sibling code. The Rugby League Conference will give clubs the opportunity to run year-round operations which will identify clear revenue generating opportunities as well as developing player-base skills.?
The new competition will be run along provincial lines, culminating in an All-Ireland Grand Final, with the winners then progressing to take on the champions of England and Wales. It will be administered by Rugby League Ireland, the officially recognised governing body for the sport in Ireland, and according to RLI?s Dave Southern, it will offer a number of major benefits for competing clubs:
?A major feature of the growth of the Rugby League Conference (in the UK) has been the symbiotic co-existence of developing rugby league clubs and established rugby union clubs that have seen the opportunity to enter the RLC. This has allowed them to double-up in summer for rugby league and winter for rugby union, thereby providing year-round use of facilities.?
Southern added: ?This is an incredible opportunity for established and new clubs to enter an ever-growing competition and be part of one of rugby's truly revolutionary concepts.?
Rugby League Ireland already runs a successful six-team competition that has been in operation since the 1980s. One of the major success stories of that competition has been Wicklow-born Brian Carney. The 27-year-old former GAA player succeeded Jason Robinson as right-winger for Wigan and this year has gone on to star for the Great Britain & Ireland Test side, scoring two tries in the opening Ashes Test against Australia earlier this month.
Anyone requiring further information regarding the new competition should contact Rugby League Ireland?s Dave Southern.