BRADFORD Bulls will not face trips to Oxford and Gloucester next year following the merger of the two clubs.

The RFL have confirmed that the two southern sides will be joining forces to create a new team based in Bristol.

That will not happen until the 2019 season but neither of the existing clubs will compete in next year’s competition.

Instead they will aim to secure the investment required to be granted approval by the RFL to launch the team in time for the 2019 campaign.

“The Rugby Football League is clear that there is an expectation on all clubs in the professional game to offer a clear strategy that demonstrates their plans to help grow and strengthen the sport in future years,” said RFL chief operating officer Ralph Rimmer.

“Oxford and Gloucester have come to the conclusion that the best way for them to now move forward is by creating a new club in Bristol that is backed by significant support and investment.

“The Rugby Football League board has accepted this and is looking forward to seeing further detailed plans for the new club in due course.

“Rugby league will continue to have a presence in both Oxford and Gloucester, with community clubs and foundations remaining in place.”

The Bulls begin their pre-season fitness programme next Wednesday.

The return to Tong will coincide with the release of the new fixture list which is scheduled to be released in the first week of November.

It has been confirmed that the third tier will consist of 14 clubs playing each other home and away.

League One is expected to kick off at the same time as the two higher divisions.

Rimmer said: “League One is more flexible. There’s interest from everywhere all the time about different entry points.

“It’s up to the RFL to do some due diligence on who will add some worth and who is fanciful.

“League One was reinvented a few years ago when it was an incubator competition for those teams who wanted to dip their toes into the professional water.

“Nobody was precious about whether teams survived and there was some organic growth.

“In that regard, it’s been really successful.

“The (Toronto) Wolfpack are one example and you’d be staggered if I was to give you the list of teams who’ve put their hands up to enter the competition.

“But these teams have to not only put their hand up to come in, they will also have some pretty tough tasks to get through.

“I expect the Bulls to have a real journey but it won’t be a walkover.”