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FORMER England coach Tony Smith says it would be harsh to relegate a team from Super League in 2021 due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Leigh Centurions, who were fast-tracked from the Championship at less than three months’ notice to take the place of Toronto Wolfpack, are currently six points adrift at the foot of the table after losing all 13 matches in the first half of the season.
But they have seen their last three fixtures called off due to Covid-19 outbreaks at their scheduled opponents with the threat of more disruption to come.
So far 19 Super League matches have been called off and only four of them have been rearranged, leading to the prospect of a lopsided final table.
Smith’s Hull KR team stayed up despite finishing bottom in 2020 and he believes it would fair to suspend relegation for the second successive season, although he says promotion could still take place.
“I would think it would be harsh to relegate anybody on such a disrupted season,” Smith told the BBC’s rugby league podcast.
“I think there’s room for a promotion, I’d like to think there’s a way of bringing somebody in, maybe two, that could work.
“I would certainly hate to be involved in a club that got relegated on such an uneven season.
“We’re going to end up playing Catalans, the league leaders, three times but we may not play some of the lesser teams once.
“We’re not out of it entirely but, if I was in Leigh’s position. I’d be mortified that we actually got relegated.”
Smith, an Australian who has spent virtually his entire coaching career in Super League after joining Huddersfield in 2000, is worried about the future of the game, which he says is in “its least healthy state” in his time in England.
His comments come at a time when officials from Super League and the Rugby Football League are in talks over a possible realignment following the breakaway of 2018.
“I don’t want to be all doom and gloom but I’m a little bit worried about all different factions within the game,” Smith told the podcast.
“We’re not all joined up, we need strong leadership, something needs to happen.
“I love my sport, I’m a bit over protective of it, but it’s probably at its least healthy I’ve seen it in my 21 years here.
“We’re not all joined up at the moment, we’re fragmented, it’s almost us against them when it comes to administrators and players and coaches.
“I don’t think at the moment players feel they are valued and it creates a real distrust. A lot of us in the game have got our own agendas and we need some real leaders to stand up and it needs to happen soon.”
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