28th February 2020, 13:55 | wheelchair
The biggest ever season of Wheelchair Rugby League will be launched in Wigan this weekend.
More teams than ever will be playing across four domestic leagues – while 2020 will also be a bumper year for the England team as they continue the countdown to hosting one of the three Rugby League World Cups to be played in this country in 2021.
Fourteen of those domestic teams will gather at Robin Park this weekend for a Wheelchair 4s competition, while the season launch event will also serve as an England trial, and will also involve the draw for the early rounds of the Wheelchair Rugby League Challenge Cup 2020.
Hull FC and Leyland Warriors are the two newcomers to the Wheelchair Super League in 2020, joining the Kent-based Argonauts, Leeds Rhinos, North Wales Crusaders and the reigning champions Halifax in a six-team competition.
Hull FC, who earned promotion after winning the Wheelchair RL Championship Grand Final in 2019, will kick off with a trip to Leyland on the weekend of March 7-8, while Halifax begin their title defence by heading south to Kent to face the Argonauts.
Halifax follow this with an early-season Yorkshire blockbuster against Leeds Rhinos, the team they beat in last year’s Grand Final – denying the Rhinos a double, after they had clinched their first Wheelchair Challenge Cup by beating the Argonauts in Sheffield.
The strength and development of Wales Wheelchair Rugby League is reflected not only in the presence of North Wales Crusaders in the Super League, but in an additional three Welsh teams in the Championship – a second NW Crusaders team, plus the Celts Crusaders and Ebbw Rollers, who will meet in the opening round of fixtures. The Rollers will break new ground for the game as South Wales’s first Wheelchair Rugby League club.
The third tier, known as Championship 1, combines four teams from traditional Rugby League territory – Bradford Bulls, Mersey Storm, Rochdale Hornets and Warrington Wolves – with two less familiar outposts: Dundee Dragons from Scotland, and Hereford Harriers from the South West.
In addition six teams have now committed to a Development League – Newcastle Thunder, St Helens, Woodlands Warriors (another Kent-based team), The Army, Wakefield Trinity and Bedford Tigers.
The 2020 champions will be determined on Grand Finals weekend in Medway in Kent on September 26.
Before then, the Challenge Cup Final is again scheduled for the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, on Saturday July 25 – seven days after the Coral Challenge Cup Final at Wembley, with the semi finals scheduled be played on the same weekend as the Coral Women’s Challenge Cup Final and the men’s semis (June 6-7).
The England and Wales national squads will gather for their first training camps of the season on the weekend of March 21-22.
England's will be based in Sheffield, and plans are advanced for two internationals against France in the summer, and to welcome the Australia Wheelaroos for a home Ashes series in the autumn – running alongside the return of the men’s Rugby League Ashes, with the England Wheelchair team aiming for a repeat of the 2-0 series victory they gained in Australia last autumn.
Martin Coyd OBE, the Chair of England Wheelchair Rugby League, said: “We’re on a roll in the Wheelchair game at the moment, after a successful 2019 season, culminating in England’s outstanding Ashes tour – and then our first Wheelchair Rugby League Awards Night at Headingley in January, when our England captain Jack Brown made history by winning the first International Rugby League Wheelchair Golden Boot.
“So the mood couldn’t be more positive as we prepare for our launch weekend and the 2020 season.
“It’s great to see new teams at all levels, from Hull FC and Leyland Warriors in the Super League, to Wakefield Trinity and Bedford Tigers in the Development League, as well as the continued progress of the game in Wales which now includes a first team in South Wales - as more people from all over the UK discover the unique appeal of Wheelchair Rugby League.
“I’m sure the competition at all levels will be fierce, and that can only benefit our national teams. We’ve got a really exciting programme of international matches planned for England in 2020, and we look forward to providing more information about that when the squad get together for the first time at the English Institute of Sport later in March.”
Wheelchair Rugby League 2020 – League Structure and Key Dates
Wheelchair Super League: Argonauts, Halifax, Hull FC, Leeds Rhinos, Leyland Warriors, North Wales Crusaders.
Wheelchair Rugby League Championship: Argonauts Demigods, Celts Crusaders, Ebbw Vale Rollers, Gravesend, NW Crusaders A.
Championship 1: Bradford Bulls, Dundee Dragons, Hereford Harriers, Mersey Storm, Rochdale Hornets, Warrington Wolves.
Development League: The Army, Bedford Tigers, Newcastle Thunder, St Helens, Wakefield Trinity, Woodlands Warriors.
February 29 – March 1: Launch weekend, including Wheelchair RL 4s tournament (Robin Park, Wigan)
March 7-8: Opening round of league fixtures
March 21-22: England and Wales training camps
June 6-7: Wheelchair Rugby League Challenge Cup and Trophy semi finals
Saturday July 25: Wheelchair Rugby League Challenge Cup Final (English Institute of Sport, Sheffield)
Saturday September 26: Wheelchair Super League Grand Final (Medway Leisure Centre, Kent)