England Men’s Rugby League World Cup campaign will begin at Newcastle United’s St James’ Park in October against Samoa, but as for Rugby League in the North East that gets underway this weekend as Jarrow Vikings host Wests Warriors in Round One of the Betfred Challenge Cup.
The game continues to grow in the North East and with the Rugby League World Cup and Super League’s Magic Weekend both gracing the area in 2022, there has never been a stronger time for Rugby League in the Tyne as Jarrow are proving.
Jarrow Coach George Taylor said: “As a region the game is growing massively and were seen as an example of good practice for how we do things.
“A lot of what we are doing as a region is focused on junior development and growth and with the pathway we have in place it’s only fair that open age get a chance to play at the highest level they can, especially those who come to the game late, and they can with the Challenge Cup.
“Off the back of Covid, the game in the region is in a good position and the potential is massive. We need to keep doing our little bit and I’m confident that soon things will boom.”
Local professional side Newcastle Thunder enjoyed their first season in the Betfred Championship in 2020 and Jarrow’s clash with Wests will be hosted at Thunder’s home of Kingston Park on Saturday.
“We played the North-East Grand Final at Kingston Park last year, so our lads are confident that we know how to play the surface up there,” Taylor said.
Jarrow are making their second appearance in the Betfred Challenge Cup after exiting the competition in Round One back in 2020 following a 30-4 defeat against Upton, but the Vikings are ready to again in the sport’s oldest tournament.
Taylor commented: “It’s massive for us, the prestige of the competition is a huge appeal to the lads.
“We are a club where most of our players see Rugby League as their primary sport so it’s something a lot of them have looked forward to. We were in the competition in 2020 just before Covid and we went out in the First Round, and we hope to go even better this year.
“We are expecting a close affair, with us being effectively the best of the North East against the best of the South, with both teams winning their respective competitions last year.
“Both sides will fancy their chances since we have avoided some of the ‘tougher’ sides in the draw – the Armed Forces and the top National Conference League sides.
“I actually know one of their players who I used to play alongside at Gateshead Storm. We fully expect them to be the kind of side that want to throw the ball around, they’re a side with a decent Australian and Kiwi representation and the artificial surface at Kingston Park means we will get a nice expansive game.”
If Jarrow successfully overcome Wests this weekend, they will face a trip to the winner of Edinburgh Eagles and York Acorn which throws up some promising ties.
Taylor summarised: “This year we have a good chance if we can win in the First Round to progress as we’ve managed to avoid the professional sides in the draw.
“It would be a great opportunity for us to build on the success we had last year and recruit even further, hopefully running a second team in the near future.”
Tickets for the 2022 Betfred Challenge Cup Final on Saturday 28 May at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium are available to purchase here.
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