10th January 2020, 13:42 | ChallengeCup
Ten years on from their last home tie in the Coral Challenge Cup, Edinburgh Eagles will once more welcome the historic competition to the capital of Scotland as they are set to face off against Ashton Bears this weekend.
The Eagles have been Scotland’s most consistent representative in the Challenge Cup with entry this year marking their 10th appearance in the tournament.
Edinburgh have won the Scottish title on a record 10 occasions, a feat which saw the club move into the North East competition in 2019 which they also won with an extra-time victory over fellow Challenge Cup First Round side Jarrow Vikings.
McGuffog said: “Last season we applied to join the North East League to guarantee us more fixtures as we’d only played a handful of games in each of the last few seasons.
“We needed to guarantee regular competitive fixtures and the year prior we’d progressed all the way to the final of the North East Cup, so I was sure we could compete.
“We beat Gateshead Storm A at Kingston Park before winning back-to-back home ties against Jarrow Vikings and Catterick Crusaders but unfortunately narrowly lost the final to Wallsend Eagles.
“The natural progression for us was to move into the North East League and it paid off as we managed to win the title in our first season.”
Despite the move to the North East League, the Eagles are still supportive of the Scottish game and feel the game is definitely developing North of the border.
“The game is certainly growing. Last year we had four teams based in Scotland – Strathmore, Fife, Glasgow and ourselves – which is already an improvement on previous seasons.
“Glasgow also competed in the North East Cup which is fantastic for them and means they have also been exposed to the higher standard of Rugby League that we are now competing at.
“It’s great that we’re at home in the First Round of the Challenge Cup as it means some of the players and supports from the three other Scottish sides can come and watch the next level of Rugby League and we can all learn and improve from it.
“We are definitely aware that, on a larger level, we are representing Scotland as a whole and we know how important that is. Our team has a few Fijians and a couple of Australians, who are now Scottish qualified on residency, but they have all bought into the club and our values.
“As far as we’re concerned every game for us is Scotland versus England and that adds an extra dimension, focus and edge every time we play, and this weekend’s fixture will be exactly the same.
“A victory over Ashton would be massive for the club. They are a heartlands side and if a Scottish club managed to defeat them it would really turn a few heads.
“Expansion is the big topic in Rugby League at the moment. People have passed comment on the need for a semi-pro or pro side in Scotland and if Edinburgh Eagles were to progress in the Challenge Cup then that could be a good starting point.
“In Edinburgh we have a very a cosmopolitan city and, of course, it’s the capital city of Scotland with thousands of people so it has huge appeal.
“The potential here is huge, but we have to try and capture that and develop that but it’s a lot of small steps and competing in the Challenge Cup is definitely one of those.
“Let’s see how we go this weekend!”