2nd December 2019, 15:00 | therfl
The fixture list for the return of Reserves Rugby League in 2020 has today been published - alongside the schedule for the Academy Championship which will become an Under-18s competition next year.
Castleford Tigers and Leeds Rhinos are scheduled to play the first match in the revived Reserves League on Thursday January 30 - the first of a full round of seven fixtures which continues on the Friday night with Hull KR versus Wakefield Trinity, a curtain-raiser before the equivalent Betfred Super League fixture.
The other five games in the opening round are due to be played on Saturday, February 1, and involve the four non-Super League clubs who have been included in both the Reserves League and the Academy Championship - London Broncos, Bradford Bulls and Newcastle Thunder are away to Huddersfield Giants, Hull FC and Warrington Wolves respectively, while Widnes Vikings are at home to Wigan Warriors, and St Helens host Salford Red Devils.
The following weekend the Broncos will host St Helens in the Reserves League in a double-header at Ealing Trailfinders, before their home Betfred Championship opener against Whitehaven.
Two weeks later, St Helens will face Wigan Warriors in a heavyweight derby at Ruskin Drive on Sunday February 23 - the day after they host Sydney Roosters in the World Club Challenge.
Each of the 14 teams will play 18 matches, with the last round of fixtures on the weekend of August 30 - and no play-offs, meaning the team finishing top will be crowned champions.
The Academy Championship kicks off a month later than the Reserves League, on Friday February 28, when Wigan - who won their third consecutive title with a Grand Final victory over St Helens in 2019 - launch their latest title defence at home to Hull KR, who will relaunch their own Academy team in 2020 having combined with Hull FC in the City of Hull Academy in recent seasons.
London and Newcastle open up with home matches against St Helens and Leeds respectively, while Bradford go to Hull FC and Widnes travel to Huddersfield.
Castleford face Warrington, with Wakefield Trinity given a bye in the opening round, as the Academy Championship is a 13-team competition including all the English teams in the Betfred Super League bar Salford.
The Academy Championship also involves each team playing 18 fixtures, with the champions to be determined by a four-team Play-Off series culminating in a Grand Final in late September – with the last round of fixtures in the regular season on the weekend of September 11.
Dave Rotheram, the RFL's Interim Chief On-Field Officer, said: "The return of the Reserves League has been widely welcomed since it was confirmed earlier this year, and it's good to be able to combine the announcement of these fixtures with the programme for the 2020 Academy Championship.
"We see the return of the Reserves League plus the change in the Academy Championship to an Under-18 competition as two positive steps in the game’s talent and performance pathway, helping us to develop more high-quality players for Super League and England.
“In that regard, it’s important that we spread the net nationally, so it’s significant that the four non-Super League clubs who will field teams in both the Reserves League and the Academy Championship include London Broncos and Newcastle Thunder.”