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Wolfpack hold 'home' game in London, looking to showcase transatlantic team


With its home opener not until April 28, the Toronto Wolfpack continue life on the road.

But they do it on their own terms Saturday, hosting Sheffield Eagles in a "home" game at London's New River Stadium, home of the London Skolars.

The Wolfpack hold a minority stake in the Skolars, who play one level below the Wolfpack in the third-tier League 1. For Toronto majority owner David Argyle, playing a Wolfpack game in London helps shine a light on the Skolars and perhaps win some more fans for his transatlantic team while further showcasing rugby league in the English capital.

With Toronto's city-owned Lamport Stadium under a bubble until good weather comes, Toronto is used to extended chunks of schedule away. Toronto has already held "home" games in Newcastle and Hull this season — Round 3 against Widnes and Round 7 against Batley Bulldogs.

Toronto also played a "home" game in London last season when the Wolfpack defeated Halifax RLFC 42-10 at the Skolars' home.

Argyle is looking for other new locales to show off his team.

A proposed game in Belgrade — Red Star Belgrade entered a team in the Coral Challenge Cup this year — didn't come through this season. Serbia is still on his wish list but he has other options.

"Next year we want to bring in a combination of Dublin, Copenhagen and Barcelona," Argyle said in an interview.

Fans at Saturday's game will get another taste of Canada with poutine on the stadium menu. The Canadian High Commission has provided flags and foam fingers.

Saturday's contest is the second half of a doubleheader that kicks off with the Skolars playing Workington Town in what is being billed as the London Series. Toronto (7-1-0) goes into weekend play atop the Betfred Championship with Sheffield (6-1-0) third.

Founded in 1995, initially for post-university graduates, the Skolars have found a niche in north London. The club has history with Toronto, losing 76-0 to the Wolfpack in the expansion team's league debut in March 2017. 

Argyle speaks glowingly of the Skolars' youth system.

"It ticks every aspiration that a club wants where it starts local and gives kids the opportunity to be involved. And the ones who want to go further, it's given them a good foundation."

The other London club, the Broncos, play in the elite Super League. The Broncos were promoted at the expense of Toronto last season, edging the Wolfpack 4-2 last October in the Million Pound Game. 

While the Wolfpack look to spread the rugby league word, there are bids to add more teams in North America.

Applications to put teams in Ottawa and New York are currently before the Rugby Football League, England's governing body of rugby league.

"From the Wolfpack side, we're more than happy to provide our advice — if asked — on what we've learned, what we've done well and perhaps what we need to do better," Argyle said. "I think it's great for the growth of the game."

The April 28 Lamport Stadium game against Swinton Lions is the first of 10 regular-season home games.


Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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