Championship and League One clubs set date for return - Featherstone Rovers, Batley Bulldogs and Dewsbury Rams due to play in eight weeks' time but wait continues for Hunslet

Professional rugby league will return on the weekend of March 20/21.

Friday, 22nd January 2021, 2:41 pm
The Challenge Cup first round will begin the new season, on the weekend of March 20-21. Picture by Alex Whitehead/

Championship clubs including Featherstone Rovers, Batley Bulldogs and Dewsbury Rams will be back in action a year and one week after they last played, but Hunslet have to wait until May the RFL announced today (Friday).

Super League was already scheduled to kick-off on March 25.

The first round of the Challenge Cup - featuring all 13 UK clubs from the Betfred Championship, plus League One sides Barrow Raiders, Keighley Cougars and West Wales Raiders - will open the new season.

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Dewsbury coach Lee Greenwood, whose side will be back on the field in two months' time. Picture by Allan McKenzie/

The second round will be staged the following weekend, with the four winners from that going through to the next stage, on the weekend of April 10-11, when the 12 Betfred Super League clubs join the competition.

The Cup second round victors will also qualify for the semi-finals of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup in June.

The final of that is due to be played at Wembley on July 17, as part of a double-header with the Challenge Cup decider.

The Betfred Championship - originally scheduled to begin at the end of February, but delayed by the latest national lockdown - will kick off on Easter weekend, April 2-4 and feature 22 rounds before top-six play-offs in September and October.

Each team will play nine of the other 13 teams twice and the other four once.

A decision is due to be made on a possible 23rd round - the Summer Bash, when all clubs are in action over two days - in the coming weeks.

If games are played behind closed doors they will be streamed live on the RFL’s Our League platforms on a pay per view basis, with free access for home season ticket holders.

League One will kick off on the weekend of May 8-9, with each team playing the other nine twice in an 18-round season before a play-off series.

Details of promotion and relegation will be discussed and finalised at a meeting of clubs early next month, ahead of publication of the Championship and League One fixtures.

Entry to the Challenge Cup was made optional for the 10 League One clubs.

The majority remained keen to enter, but the need for an additional, preliminary round on March 14 led to the withdrawal of all but three clubs.