Toronto Wolfpack - the first fully professional Rugby League side in Canada and the world's first trans-Atlantic Rugby League side - have been making waves ever since their Rugby League debut in the third tier of the English game in 2017. The way in which they cast aside all challengers in League One - winning 20 out of 22 games and accumulating a +936 points difference by the end of the season - has left many pundits and supporters believing that the Canadian side will, likewise, take the Championship by storm in 2018. But, they will be in for a big surprise.

Stubborn sides

Whilst League One had the likes of Hemel Stags and South Wales Ironmen battling to avoid the wooden spoon - both sides won just one game in the regular season - the Championship boasts teams with a different class.

To even get into the top four and thus the Middle 8s Qualifiers to be in with a shout of promotion, Toronto will have to overcome fellow top-four hopefuls London, Leigh, Featherstone, Halifax, Batley, Sheffield and Toulouse - all sides that are by no means pushovers. That leaves eight sides - including Toronto - fighting for four spaces; the Wolfpack will definitely not have it all their own way as they did so in 2017.

Super League sides are a different animal

Moreover, even if Toronto could replicate their League One form in the upcoming Championship season, this does not guarantee promotion to the top flight. Leigh, a side that finished top of the second tier in 2015 with just one loss from 23 games and with a six-point gap separating themselves and second-placed Featherstone, nosedived in the Middle 8s that year.

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The Centurions were tipped for promotion, yet with just one win from seven games - including a 50-6 hammering away at Widnes - the Lancashire side eventually ended the Qualifiers bottom.

What most of the Rugby League fraternity highlighted was that whilst Leigh were battering Championship sides week in, week out, the ease with which they topped the league did not actually help them when they came up against experienced Super League sides that were used to the pressure of having to perform. Widnes, for example, finished the 2017 season bottom of the top flight with just five wins from 23 games. Yet, the Vikings finished second in the Qualifiers to retain their Super League status with relative ease. Leigh, however, a side that had just one year's experience in the top flight, were relegated.

And, whilst Championship sides have a chance of promotion, they often have to pull something special out of the bag to achieve it - Leigh, for example, in 2016, won all but one of their play-off games to win promotion.

Toronto could therefore be in for a rude awakening.

The curious case of Paul Rowley

Paul Rowley is a head coach with experience in the Championship. In the four seasons in which he managed the Leigh Centurions, Rowley won the Championship title twice in 2014 and 2015. As such, when the new Super 8s structure was introduced for the 2015 season, Paul Rowley's men were one of the frontrunners to earn a Super League spot for 2016. Yet, when the push came to shove, Leigh flatlined. Under the Mancunian, the Centurions had developed a negative reputation; fighting and dirty tactics tended to be Leigh's way of overcoming stubborn opposition. Whilst these characteristics were obviously effective in the second tier, when Rowley's men got to the business end of the season against sides that would not rise to such tactics, there was no plan B.

Now Toronto - with Rowley at the helm - have sadly taken on many of the same underhand tactics that Leigh had been famous for under Rowley. It made little difference to the Wolfpack's promotion-chasing season in League One in 2017 and it may be effective in the Championship in 2018, but, it simply will not work - as Leigh found out in 2015 - if or when Super League sides are the opposition.

Impressive signings, but can they gel?

In the past year, Toronto have been busy in the transfer market; with ten coming in - and many of them big-name stars - the Wolfpack are likely to have a much-changed side in 2018. Yet, Salford - under the ownership of Marwan Koukash - know just how difficult it is to put big names together and get them playing as a team. Under Koukash, Salford signed 12 players - including Rangi Chase, Tony Puletua and Tim Smith - ahead of the 2014 season, yet finished outside of the Super League play-offs in tenth position.

Toronto have gone about their business in a similar way to the Salford back then with the likes of Joe Westerman, Ashton Sims, Dave Taylor and Josh McCrone all joining for 2018. Though such signings inevitably make a statement that the Wolfpack are in the English game to succeed, it remains to be seen whether the new-look side can truly bring that aim to fruition.

Away from home

Toronto are not exactly suited to an English league being on the other side of the Atlantic and have thus established Manchester as their UK training base for 2018. As it is not feasible for regular home and away matches, the Wolfpack played blocks of back-to-back away league matches during extended stays on British soil in 2017. And, through a partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University’s MMU Sport, the club will use Platt Lane Sports Complex in Fallowfield, south Manchester, as their full-time base between home games in Toronto. Yet this setup is not exactly conducive for a side aiming for promotion.

Because of planned upgrades to Lamport Stadium - the Wolfpack's home - the team will play its first 11 games in Europe instead of a four-game block as they did so in 2017. And, although Toronto were expected to play their first home game on April 28 against Halifax, this has now been crossed off as the Lamport Stadium will still remain unavailable. Without the backing of their 7,000-core support and with very few making the trip for their opening 12 matches, the Toronto players will have nothing to feed off; it is no surprise that French side Catalans Dragons tend to perform worse away from home than at the Stade Gilbert Brutus and the same will be said of the Wolfpack in 2018.

Playing 12 games away from home at the start of the season could kill Toronto's hopes of making the top four before they even host a game in Canada. Therefore, whilst the Wolfpack are building probably the quickest Super League-esque club in history, 2018 may just be one year too early for the ambitious Canadian side. #RugbyLeague #RunWiththePack #RL