The draw for the opening round of the Coral Rugby League Challenge Cup, which will involve local clubs Thatto Heath Crusaders and Pilkington Recs, will be made live on BBC Sport at 6.30pm on Thursday.
And it’s an opportunity for the game to celebrate the impact of the CreatedBy RLWC2021 capital grants programme as the draw is being hosted by Doncaster’s Bentley ARLFC – one of the dozens of amateur Rugby League clubs to have successfully applied for a share of the funding available through Rugby League World Cup 2021’s legacy programmes.
Presenting the draw will be the BBC’s Dave Woods, while the teams themselves will be drawn by RFL vice-president and Doncaster RL chief executive Carl Hall, and the Halifax and England Wheelchair Rugby League player Wayne Boardman.
A total of 44 community clubs will be in the hat. The complete list, together with ball numbers, is as follows.
1 Ashton Bears, 2 Barrow Island, 3 Bedford Tigers, 4 Bentley, 5 British Army, 6 Dewsbury Moor, 7 Distington, 8 East Hull, 9 Edinburgh Eagles, 10 Featherstone Lions, 11 Great Britain Police, 12 Hammersmith Hills Hoists, 13 Hunslet Club Parkside, 14 Ince Rose Bridge, 15 Jarrow Vikings, 16 Leigh Miners Rangers, 17 Lock Lane, 18 London Chargers, 19 Longhorns, 20 Milford, 21 Normanton Knights, 22 Oulton Raiders, 23 Pilkington Recs, 24 RAF, 25 Rhondda Outlaws, 26 Rochdale Mayfield, 27 Royal Navy, 28 Saddleworth Rangers, 29 Siddal, 30 Sherwood Wolf Hunt, 31 Skirlaugh, 32 Stanningley, 33 Thatto Heath Crusaders, 34 Thornhill Trojans, 35 Torfaen Tigers, 36 Underbank Rangers, 37 Upton, 38 West Bank Bears, 39 West Bowling, 40 West Hull, 41 Wests Warriors, 42 Wigan St Judes, 43 Wigan St Patricks, 44 York Acorn.
Five of the above – inaugural champions Hammersmith Hills Hoists, Bedford Tigers, London Chargers, Torfaen Tigers and Wests Warriors – are members of the new Southern Conference League. Representing the Celtic nations will be Ireland’s Longhorns, Edinburgh Eagles from Scotland, and Rhonda Outlaws and Torfaen Tigers from Wales.
One number to look out for will be 33 – Thatto Heath Crusaders. The St Helens side earned significant BBC exposure in 2019 with a run all the way to Round Five, including a landmark victory over North Wales Crusaders of League 1.
Ties will take place over the weekend n of 11-12 January, when the BBC will begin another year of covering every round. Looking further ahead, League 1 clubs will enter at the third round stage on the weekend of February 8-9 and Championship clubs two weeks later in the fourth round.
Four Super League clubs – Huddersfield Giants, Hull KR, Wakefield Trinity and Toronto Wolfpack – will enter at round five on the weekend of 14-15 followed by the remaining Super League clubs for round six on the weekend of April 4-5.
The Coral Challenge Cup Final itself will be played more than a month earlier than in 2019 – on Saturday July 18. Fans still have time to take advantage of a special early bird ticket offer, with 25 per cent off all seats meaning tickets now start from only £15 for adults and £3.75 for under 16s.
Mark Foster, the RFL’s chief commercial officer, said:“It’s an earlier date for Wembley in 2020, and it’s great to be able to offer these early Bird prices to our loyal supporters who buy their tickets early every year – as well as to attract some new ones.
“Rugby League celebrates its 125th birthday in 2020 – and what better way to do that than by packing out Wembley Stadium for one of the great days in the British sporting calendar?
“It’s another huge summer of sport with the Euros and the Olympics, and the July date gives Rugby League a great chance to be part of that. It’s during term time, before the school holidays, and we’ve already started making plans to make the most of these new opportunities.”
The RFL has introduced a new and improved ticketing site since the 2019 Coral Challenge Cup Final – eticketing.co.uk/rugbyleague – and all customers will need to set up a new account to take advantage of the early bird prices.
Cup schedule at a glance:
Round one: January 11-12
Round two: January 25-26
Round three: February 8-9
Round four: February 22-23
Round five: March 14-15
Round six: April 4-5
Quarter-finals: May 9-10
Semi-finals: 6-7 June 6-7 (details tbc)
Final: Saturday, July 18.