26th February 2020, 15:51 | league_1
The 2020 Betfred League 1 season will finally get underway this weekend with a full schedule of fixtures in store.
London Skolars will host North Wales Crusaders on Sunday in an eye-catching match-up, 3pm kick off.
The pair have both already exited the Coral Challenge Cup, Skolars at the hands of Barrow on the road two weeks ago, and North Wales were edged out 22-18 by Hunslet at home last weekend.
But they both have reasons for optimism going into 2020.
Though injuries began to bite later in the season, Skolars were flying high in the early part of 2019 and showed their fair share of promise - in May they were briefly sat top of the League 1 table - a period of form they will be keen to recapture as they carry a largely similar squad to last year.
Meanwhile, North Wales enjoyed a late season surge which took them to the brink of the play-off places, recovering from a Cup defeat at community club Thatto Heath in March to finish seventh, just three points short of a place amongst the promotion shake-up.
A highlight of that run included a stunning 24-22 win at eventual champions Whitehaven in June.
And the Welsh outfit have recruited shrewdly in the off-season, picking up highly-rated halfback Jordan Gibson from St Helens amateurs Haydock and back-rower Gav Rodden from Wigan St Judes - who scored four tries on his debut for the club against Rochdale Mayfield in Round three of the Challenge Cup - amongst others.
Another top billing on Sunday sees two promotion hopefuls go head-to-head as Barrow Raiders travel to Doncaster for a 3pm kick off.
The Dons are flush with talent in the backs with stars such as PNG international Watson Boas and former Super League Man of Steel Rangi Chase, coupled with the likes of Matty Beharrell and Hull product Jack Logan so will be keen to grasp the opportunity of a wide open promotion race.
But standing in their way on Sunday are relegated Barrow.
Though the Raiders ultimately came up short, they have retained the bulk of the squad which featured in the Championship last year, and showed signs of their potential as they travelled to Featherstone in the Cup last week, losing just 18-16 in West Yorkshire.
A pair of former Super League props top their off-season signings in the form of Lee Jewitt - who played in the 2014 Challenge Cup final for Castleford - and Carl Forster, who earned promotion from League 1 last year with Whitehaven.
Also on Sunday, ambitious Newcastle Thunder - who suffered play-off final heartbreak at the hands of Oldham in 2019 - will be aiming to get their 2020 off to a good start when they travel to Coventry.
West Wales Raiders host Hunslet - the hosts hopeful for a more fruitful 2020 after finishing bottom last year, as Hunslet look to build on a fifth-placed finish in 2019.
Finally, two sides who will be looking to fare better in the new season face off in Cumbria as Workington Town host Keighley Cougars.
Town laboured to a sixth-placed finish last year, while the Cougars recovered from a 12-point deduction to finish second-bottom, chalking up eight wins along the way.