#1 – Latest in League – Unbeaten seasons, Widnes, Salford and Toulouse.

Despite a valiant effort in the second half Wigan Warriors unbeaten start to the 2017 Super League season came to an end at the hands of Lee Radford’s Hull FC.

Just a week earlier Castleford’s perfect start to the season also came to a halt after Gareth O’Brien’s drop-goal saw Salford come away with the victory at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Daryl Powell said after the defeat: “People mentioned us going unbeaten for the season – well that’s put an end to that.”

Powell’s comment alongside Wigan’s defeat this past weekend got me considering the idea of an unbeaten league campaign in the world of Rugby League.

I’d almost convinced myself that Wigan would have achieved such a feat during their glory years between 1987-1995 however after some digging around I found out they hadn’t. In fact, no side has ever gone unbeaten in the top tier of British Rugby League.

wigan.jpg
Wigan won the Challenge Cup on nine consecutive occasions but never managed an unbeaten season. (Photo: Wigan Warriors)

 

However, it has been achieved in Australia – but not since 1959. South Sydney managed to win every game (12 from 12) in their 1925 campaign while Balmain, North Sydney, East Suburbs, and St George all achieved unbeaten seasons with the East Suburbs managing it in consecutive seasons.

Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm are the only sides who still have perfect records in this year’s NRL however with the quality of the competition, the effect of the State of Origin games, and the golden-point rule it is extremely unlikely a side will ever remain unbeaten for a whole season again.

Hull KR still have a perfect record in the Championship this season with seven wins from seven and if they were to manage an unbeaten season they would match the achievement of their cross-city rivals Hull FC who won the second division in 1978-79 without a loss.

However, KR will have to compete in the qualifiers at the end of the season which means facing four Super League sides reducing the chance of an unbeaten campaign dramatically. Also, going unbeaten in the Championship is no easy task ask the Leigh Centurions who suffered one regular season defeat in each of their last three seasons – Doncaster (2014), London (2015) & Batley (2016).

Toulouse Olympique came close to an unbeaten last year in the Championship One however a defeat to Rochdale Hornets in the play-offs ended their run and emphasised the difficulty of an unbeaten season.

Dewsbury Rams managed to go through the 2009 season in the third-tier without a loss and it looks like it could be in the Championship One where we see an unbeaten season in 2017 with newbies Toronto Wolfpack.

The Wolfpack have already overcome to of the stronger sides in Whitehaven and Keighley as well as knocking Championship side London Broncos out of the Challenge Cup. Toronto could very well go unbeaten this season and it seems more likely that the Canadians will achieve the feat rather than KR.

As mentioned, Salford were the side who ended Castleford’s early season winning streak and they followed that up with a clinical destruction of Widnes at the Select Security Stadium on Friday night.

widnes salford.jpg
Salford destroyed Widnes this past weekend in the Super League. (Photo: Daily Star)

 

A one-sided affair was an indication of the difference in recruitment and club management between two sides who I view as very similar in Salford and Widnes. Both are stereotypically lower-mid Super League sides who competed in the middle-eights last year – with Salford surviving by the skin of their teeth thanks to Gareth O’Brien’s unforgettable drop-goal against Hull KR.

However, Salford have recruited well in pre-season and have put faith in head coach Ian Watson and it is already proving a good decision with the likes of Ben Murdoch-Masila, Lama Tasi, Junior Sa’u and coach Watson all signing new contracts this week.

As for Widnes, it seemed that they thought signing several players to long-term deals following their fantastic start last season would see them through however poor recruitment in pre-season has singled them out as possibly the weakest side in the Super League. Tom Olbison and Tom Armstrong were their only additions over the winter and Dennis Betts failed to replace half-back Kevin Brown which was proved detrimental to the start of their season.

I personally believe Salford have finally got it right with their recruitment and management off the field after years of trying but failing to climb the table but for Widnes it could be a long season with the threat of relegation possible.

I’d like to finish my first ‘Latest in League’ piece talking about Toulouse Olympique who I had the pleasure of watching for the first time this weekend as they defeated Featherstone Rovers at the Big Fellas Stadium.

Toulouse.jpg
Toulouse celebrate their promotion last year. (Photo: Ladepeche.fr)

 

Toulouse returned to British Rugby League at the beginning of last season and earned promotion from League One after winning the league leaders shield before victories over York and Barrow in the play-offs.

Sylvain Houles’ forwards were extremely impressive with the likes of Sebastien Planas, Andrew Bentley, Clement Boyer, and Tyla Hepi causing the Rovers defence all sorts of issues and consistently getting their nose through the defensive line. Olympique’s offload game saw them blitz Featherstone in the early stages going 16-0 up in as many minutes.

In Mark Kheirallah they have an extremely talented full-back, clever halves with Stanislas Robin and Johnathan Ford and the powerhouse winger that is Kuni Minga.

Toulouse, I feel, can fight for promotion in the coming seasons and it will be extremely interesting to see a Super League with two French sides and how that could develop in the future.

Advertisements

Super League Team of the Week: Matchday 6

Castleford returned to winning ways this weekend as well as climbing back to the top of Super League following Wigan’s loss to Hull FC.

There were wins for Salford, Wakefield, Saints and Leeds while Widnes and Warrington’s winless streaks continued for another week.

But, who made my Super League Team of the Week?

Full-Back: Jamie Shaul (Hull FC)

Hull FC managed to pull of what could turn out to be a crucial victory in the chase for the League Leaders Shield as they overcame an injury-ridden Wigan side at the DW Stadium. FC had many standout performers but full-back Jamie Shaul was key.

Shaul was a constant threat in the final third having a hand in a couple of Hull’s tries as well as crossing for one himself. The full-backs try four minutes into the second half turned out to be the difference between the sides following a late Wigan fightback.

Shauk
Shaul calling the shots for FC. (Image: Sky Sports)

 

Winger: Greg Eden (Castleford Tigers)

Castleford bounced back from their first defeat of the season as they came from behind against Catalans Dragons. The Tigers style of play this season has led to their wingers featuring in many ‘Team of the Weeks’ and this week is no different with Greg Eden occupying a spot on the flank.

Eden’s first came from Castleford earning the ball back from a Catalan scrum and the winger chasing down a Ben Roberts kick. The former Brisbane winger sealed victory for Tigers as he broke through the Dragons defence with fifteen minutes remaining.

Centre: Kris Welham (Salford Red Devils)

Ian Watson’s Salford Red Devils were on fire on Friday night against a struggling Widnes side with nine different try-scorers helping them to a comfortable 10-46 victory at the Select Security Stadium.

Kris Welham was one of those scorers crossing in the first half as well as helping Greg Johnson go over on the same flank. Welham could prove to be a very strong addition to the Salford side.

Centre: Jake Connor (Hull FC)

A fantastic first half display from Lee Radford’s side saw them blow Wigan away with their attacking play too much for the Warriors. Centre Jake Connor had one of his better games in the black and white of FC.

Connor managed to score on the back of a magnificent ball from Sika Manu as well as causing problems for the Warriors defence alongside Mahe Fonua.

Winger: Adam Swift (St Helens)

Friday night’s Sky game saw Saints earn a comfortable victory over Warrington after a difficult opening thirty minutes. Winger Adam Swift went over twice for Kieran Cunningham’s side who are slowly beginning to climb the Super League table.

Mark Percival put Swift over in the closing stages of the first half and the third try in five minutes really dampened Warrington’s spirit going into the interval. The winger managed to grab his double midway through the second half and confirm victory for the Saints.

Scrum-Half: Jacob Miller (Wakefield Trinity)

Wakefield stuttered through the early stages of their game against Leigh on Thursday however once their forwards snatched control of the game half-back Jacob Miller was allowed to play and created numerous opportunities for Trinity.

Miller combined well with Sam Williams opening up the Centurions defence on the back of some quick play-the-balls. Miller was also the man to level the scores at 24-24 when he got on the end of Liam Finn’s low kick.

Stand-Off: Matty Smith (St Helens)

For weeks now we’ve heard Saints coach Kieran Cunningham point out the difference off-season signing Matty Smith would make when he returned to the side and Cunningham’s wasn’t wrong as Smith played a pivotal role in Saints 31-6 victory.

Smith controlled the game for large periods and added an organisation to St Helens that we had yet to witness this season. Cunningham will be hoping the England international’s impact carries on in the coming weeks.

smith
Matty Smith returned to action for St Helens. (Image: Getty Images)

 

Prop: Keegan Hirst (Wakefield Trinity)

Wakefield made some very astute signings in pre-season and one prospect was Keegan Hirst who arrived at the Beaumont Legal Stadium after two (?) solid seasons with Championship side Batley Bulldogs.

Hirst debuted this weekend and made an impact from the bench in Trinity’s victory over Leigh. Wakefield managed to claw themselves back into the game by winning the forward battle something which Hirst was central to.

Hooker: Matt Parcell (Leeds Rhinos)

For the second week running Matt Parcell sits in the role of hooker in my Super League Team of the Week after another great performance in Leeds’ 12-28 win over Huddersfield at the John Smith’s Stadium on Friday night.

Parcell has injected this Rhino’s side with something different in the final third and is proving to be one of the best Super League signings of 2017 already. Parcell was quickest to react to Carl Ablett’s low kick in the first half which extended Leeds’ lead.

Prop: Lama Tasi (Salford Red Devils)

Salford followed up their surprise victory over Castleford last weekend by signing a handful of players to new contracts with one of those being prop-forward Lama Tasi. The Kiwi displayed his commitment to the cause with an excellent performance in the Red Devils hammering of Widnes.

Ian Watson’s side, much like last weekend against the Tigers, completely dominated the ruck with forwards such as Tasi and Murdoch-Masila. Tasi powered his way over to open the scoring before eight other Red Devils would cross for tries of their own.

lama-tasi-salford_3169670
Lama Tasi in action for the Red Devils. (Image: Sporting Life)

 

Second-Row: Junior Moors (Castleford Tigers)

Daryl Powell’s expansive brand of Rugby League draws a huge amount of attention to his backs however it’s Cas’ powerful pack that lay the groundwork and Junior Moors is a consistent performer for the Tigers.

Moors, who was a handful for the Dragons defence throughout Sunday afternoon’s game, also found himself on the scoresheet just five minutes into the second half as he strolled through the Catalans defence.

Second-Row: Carl Ablett (Leeds Rhinos)

Carl Ablett was sent to the bin in Leeds victory over Huddersfield for an altercation with Danny Brough. However, the experienced second-rower had already made the positive impact necessary for the Rhinos in the first half and that’s why he made my Team of the Week.

Ablett pounced on a loose ball to put Leeds ahead in the first half and he turned provider a few minutes later as his grubber kick was planted down by Matt Parcell.

Loose-Forward: Jon Wilkin (St Helens)

With Matty Smith sidelined we’ve seen Kieran Cunningham experiment with youngster Danny Richardson at half-back as well as moving Jon Wilkin into the halves. While Wilkin has produced solid performances, he was back to his best this weekend as he returned to the pack.

The veteran forward looked to have a weight off his shoulders with Smith at half-back and excelled in both defence and attack for Saints.

 


 

Super League Team of the Week: Matchday 5

Another enthralling weekend of Super League action saw Castleford and Wigan fail to win for the first times this season. However, Wigan’s draw keeps them top of the Super League table.

Hull FC and Leeds continued to chase the pacesetters while Warrington and Widnes remain winless.

But, who made my Team of the Week?

Full-Back: Morgan Escare (Wigan Warriors)

Morgan Escare arrived at the DW Stadium in the off-season with a lot of pressure on his shoulders being tasked with the role of filling in for an injured Sam Tomkins however he has adapted to life at Wigan extremely well.

The French full-back crossed in the first half to level the score for the Warriors before kicking two goals including a crucial late penalty goal which earned Wigan a point and meant Shaun Wane’s side are now alone at the top of the Super League table – one point clear of Castleford, Hull and Leeds.

Escare vs Huddersfield
Morgan Escare kicks a late goal for Wigan. (Photo: Stephen White – CameraSport/Getty Images)

 

Winger: Jack Owens (St Helens)

Since signing from Widnes at the beginning of the 2016 season Jack Owens is yet to set the world alight at St Helens but this weekend his try earned them an important two points in the south of France.

While Theo Fages’ sublime offload made the try Owens was in support to earn Saints’ second victory of the season and inflict Catalans’ first home defeat in 2017.

Centre: Kallum Watkins (Leeds Rhinos)

Leeds made it back-to-back Super League wins with a controlled performance over an in-form Wakefield Trinity side with centre Kallum Watkins scoring twice for the Rhinos.

The Englishman climbed highest from a cross-field kick to open the scoring at Headingley before taking advantage of some neat play from Matt Parcell for his second of the game. England fans will be hoping he can return to the kind of form he displayed in 2015 particularly with the Rugby League World Cup at the end of the season.

Centre: Ben Crooks (Leigh Centurions)

Ben Crooks has been a victim of Castleford’s ever-growing success and has slowly been ousted from the Tigers side however he has shown the quality he possesses since signing a loan-deal with Leigh.

Crooks was solid in defence throughout Leigh’s first victory against Warrington in over twenty years and scored the Centurions second try of the game which really got them moving. The centre took advantage of the free-play rule before collecting his own kick and sliding over.

Winger: Mahe Fonua (Hull FC)

After a slow start against the Vikings it turned out to be a relatively comfortable victory for Hull FC at the KC Stadium and winger Mahe Fonua was on the scoresheet for Lee Radford’s side.

Fonua began the evening as provider taking Marc Sneyd’s cross-field kick well before offloading to Albert Kelly. The roles were reversed later when a neat pass from half-back Kelly found Fonua on the flank and the wideman finished well giving FC an eight-point lead going into the break.

Scrum-half: Albert Kelly (Hull FC)

Albert Kelly’s move across Hull from KR to FC turned some heads in the off-season but he is already proving to be a great addition for the 2016 Challenge Cup winners and was central to their victory over Super League strugglers Widnes this past Friday.

Kelly crossed for two tries in a game which Lee Radford’s side dominated. The half-back’s first came on the back of some good work from Fonua before Kelly again crossed in the second half powering his way over from close-range. Kelly was the most dangerous man on the field for FC scoring twice and earning an assist.

Kelly vs Widnes
Albert Kelly celebrates vs Widnes. (Photo: Hull Daily Mail)

 

Stand-Off: Gareth O’Brien (Salford Red Devils)

Salford Red Devils half-back is continuing to turn heads in the world of Rugby League ever since his drop-goal in the Million Pound Game and O’Brien again stepped up this weekend with a one-pointer to consign Castleford to their first defeat of the season.

O’Brien kept his cool late on kicking a penalty goal, after missing an earlier conversion, to draw the sides level before slotting over a drop-goal with just over two minutes left on the clock.

Prop: Gareth Hock (Leigh Centurions)

A remarkable 22-8 victory for Super League newbies Leigh over Warrington was fuelled by prop-forward Gareth Hock who rolled back the years with a terrific performance at the Leigh Sports Village.

The former Wigan and Salford forward was solid in defence and took the ball up well but it was actually his try-scoring which propelled Leigh to victory this weekend. Hock powered over to open the scoring inside the first ten minutes before crossing again in the second-half to help Leigh reach their highest ever Super League points tally.

Hooker: Matt Parcell (Leeds Rhinos)

The departure of James Segeyaro at the backend of the 2016 season left a void in the Leeds Rhinos camp however the arrival of Matt Parcell from NRL side Manly has proved to be a fantastic signing for Brian McDermott’s side.

Parcell was pivotal to everything the Rhinos did going forward in their comfortable win over Wakefield with McDermott saying post-match “My man of the match would be Matt Parcell – I thought he was outstanding.”

Prop: Adam Cuthbertson (Leeds Rhinos)

Leeds prop Adam Cuthbertson is renowned for his offloading prowess but this weekend he added try-scoring to his attacking game as he helped his side to victory against Leeds.

Cuthbertson forced his way under the sticks in the second half against the Wildcats all but sealing victory for the Rhinos.

Second-Row: Ben Murdoch-Masila (Salford Red Devils)

Last weekend Salford were left ruing missed chances in their narrow defeat at Wakefield and nobody would have felt as responsible as Ben Murdoch-Masila who failed to ground the ball correctly in the final minute costing his side the victory.

However, he made up for it this weekend as he twice crossed helping Salford become the first side to beat Castleford this season. Murdoch-Masila was too much for the Tigers to handle on their own line with the big man proving too strong for full-back Zak Hardaker.

Murdoch Masila
Ben Murdoch-Masila in action for Salford. (Photo: Sky Sports)

 

Second-Row: Anthony Mullally (Leeds Rhinos)

Anthony Mullally has been a fringe player at Headingley over the past few season spending time on dual-registration with Championship side Featherstone Rovers however an injury crisis at Headingley has given the 25-year-old an opportunity and he has taken it with both hands.

Mullally was on the scoresheet this past weekend for the Rhinos powering his way over on the back of a clever inside ball from hooker Parcell. Mullally will be hoping he can cement a permanent place in McDermott’s side.

Loose-Forward: Joel Tomkins (Wigan Warriors)

Joel Tomkins seems to get overlooked a lot recently with the exploits of brother Sam and Wigan’s strength in the forwards but this weekend he looked back at his best for the Warriors.

Tomkins as ever was strong in defence and a real threat going forward for Wigan and helped to inspire a Warriors pack ravaged by injuries.

Toronto Wolfpack’s Debut and the Globalisation of the Rugby League Challenge Cup

ladbrokes-challenge-cup_3343466
The Challenge Cup – the most historic competition in Rugby League.

 

This weekend will see Canadian-based side Toronto Wolfpack, who are already the first ever trans-Atlantic professional sports team, also become the first to compete in the Rugby League Challenge Cup.

With Paul Rowley and Brian Noble in the Wolfpack’s coaching staff along with the additions of numerous players with Super League experience Toronto head into their first competitive game against National Conference side Siddal surrounded by hype, but also expectation.

However, despite being the first trans-Atlantic side to compete in the Challenge Cup they aren’t the first non-English side to enter the competition with over a dozen foreign sides trying their hand in the historic competition over the years.

In 2007 Catalans Dragons became the first non-English side to reach the Challenge Cup final when they were defeated 30-8 by St Helens. Incidentally, this was also the first cup final to be played at the new Wembley Stadium.

Catalans had already begun to break down the barriers for sides in countries without a prominent Rugby League history and their 2007 Challenge Cup run was the beginning of an ever-growing trend of globalisation in Rugby League.

But, the Dragons weren’t the first French side to ply their trade in the Challenge Cup.

2001 saw the Villeneuve Leopards progress to the quarter-finals of the competition knocking out established English side Rochdale Hornets in the process. Unfortunately, a 32-0 defeat at the hands of Warrington at Wilderspool ended any hopes of cup heroics.

Four years later and clubs from across the Channel were again making an impact with three sides in the competition – Pia XIII, UTC and Toulouse Olympique. Pia and UTC both reached the last sixteen before defeats to Leeds and Wigan meaning it was left to the latter to make history.

Toulouse overcame Wath Brow Hornets, Doncaster and Widnes on their way to a semi-final clash with Leeds. A 56-18 defeat prevented them making the final but they became the most successful foreign side the competition had ever seen – until Catalans’ 2007 exploits.

Following Toulouse’s remarkable run there was a small influx of non-English sides to the tournament.

Again, Pia XIII, Toulouse, Limoux Grizzlies and Catalans represented France but Celtic Crusaders’ introduction to British Rugby League made room for Welsh representation. The Crusaders first Challenge Cup game also came against foreign opposition as they hosted Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow.

Russian duo Lokomotiv Moscow and Kazan Arrows debuted in the competition in 2001 but Moscow’s fixture against the Crusaders was the first all non-English tie in the Challenge Cup. The Crusaders came out on top in comfortable fashion and Leigh dispatched of the Arrows with an 80-0 victory.

A Russian side hasn’t featured in the competition since 2009 when Lokomotiv Moscow suffered an 82-6 defeat to Leigh.

Celtic Crusaders (now North Wales Crusaders) have continued to compete in the Challenge Cup since their debut back in 2006 but have only managed a 5th round appearance in 2010. Other welsh teams such as the Valley Cougars, Bonymaen Broncos and semi-professional side South Wales Ironmen (formerly known as South Wales Scorpions) have all entered.                      

Over the past four seasons the Aberdeen Warriors have represented Scotland in the Challenge Cup but are yet to earn a victory with defeats to Pilkington Recs, Skirlaugh and Northumbria University. Another defeat to Pilkington Recs saw them exit this year’s competition in the first round.

Mixed results for non-English sides over the years means it is difficult to completely welcome the idea of a more global competition.

Toulouse and Catalans’ cup runs encourage the idea of a wider competition but heavy defeats Russian, Welsh and Scottish sides would indicate the rest of the world aren’t quite ready to challenge consistently at the top level.

With discussions regarding the World Club Series taking centre stage again in recent weeks it’s important to remember Australia don’t have a knockout competition like the Challenge Cup.

Could Australian sides enter the Challenge Cup instead of the World Club Series? Possibly a far-fetched idea but the possibilities for the competition are endless if the world of Rugby League allows it room to grow.

Whatever the arguments for, or against, more non-English sides entering the competition one thing is for certain and that is that this weekend, no matter the result, Toronto Wolfpack will make history.

Match Report – Halifax RL 42-16 Sheffield Eagles

Sheffield failed to follow up an impressive victory over Toulouse last weekend as they fell to a heavy 42-16 defeat against Halifax at The Shay.

Halifax opened an eighteen-point lead thanks to tries from Adam O’Brien, Scott Murrell and Ben Johnston. The Eagles did close the gap before half-time when Scott Wheeldon, who spent ten minutes in the sin-bin, powered over.

However, Halifax maintained control after the break with James Saltonstall crossing for a second-half hat-trick alongside tries from Luke Ambler and Steve Tyrer. Sheffield did score twice in the closing stages through Ben Blackmore and Duane Straugheir.

Wheeldon was sent to the sin-bin in the first half following a trip while dual-registration player Dayne Weston spent ten minutes on the sideline in the second half after giving away back-to-back penalties.

Halifax opened the scoring inside the opening five minutes as Adam O’Brien, who signed on a one-month loan from Huddersfield in midweek, burrowed his way over from close-range. Steve Tyrer converted.

The Eagles came close on a couple of occasions but Scott Wheeldon was soon sent to the bin for tripping following a quick Halifax tap restart.

The hosts immediately took advantage and extended their lead just before the twenty-minute mark when Scott Murrell’s short-ball put Jacob Fairbank through. The loose-forward returned the ball to Murrell who went in under the posts. Tyrer converted.

Minutes later Halifax were in again as O’Brien jumped from hooker before Ben Johnston crossed unchallenged. Tyrer converted.

However, in the closing stages of the first-half Wheeldon made amends for his sin-bin by crashing over to get the Eagles back into the game before the interval. Brown converted.

Unfortunately for the Eagles they started the second-half slowly and James Saltonstall took advantage of some quick hands out wide after just three minutes. Luke Ambler powered his way over just a few moments later. Tyrer converted Ambler’s try but failed to add the extras from Saltonstall’s.

Halifax’s dominance continued as Saltonstall crossed for a second following a move to the blind-side from a scrum. Tyrer converted. With twenty minutes remaining Halifax wrapped the game up when Tyrer bundled his way over out wide.

Sheffield didn’t lie down however as Dane Chisholm created an overlap which allowed Ben Blackmore to finish well in the corner. Chisholm was again the creator as his short-ball put Duane Straugheir over with five minutes left.

But the last laugh went to the hosts as Saltonstall took advantage of a loose pass from the Eagles to score his hat-trick in the final minute of the game sealing a 42-16 victory for the hosts.

The Eagles host Batley Bulldogs at the Beaumont Legal Stadium on Sunday 26th February while Halifax travel to Rochdale Hornets.

Halifax: Sharp; Saltonstall, Tyrer, Woodburn-Hall, Worrincy; Murrell, Johnston; Boyle, O’Brien, Cahalane; Barber, Grix, Fairbank.

Interchanges: Morris, Wilkinson, Ambler, Lannon.

Eagles: Chisholm; Lo, Yere, Whiteley, Blackmore; Brown, Minchella; Wheeldon, Fozard, Weston; James, Hope, Burr.

Interchanges: Straugheir, Trout, Scott, Harper.

Referee: Chris Kendall. Touch Judges: H. Neville & J. Jones. Attendance: 1241.

Warm-up games – 7/8 January

Albert Kelly.jpg
Albert Kelly is likely to feature against his old club. (Photo: Hull FC)

 

The pick of this weekend’s warm-up games come at the KC Stadium as Hull FC host local rivals Hull KR in their first game since relegation to the Championship.

Albert Kelly, who recently signed for FC from KR, is in Lee Radford’s squad and the FC boss has revealed that Kelly will feature for at least thirty minutes on Sunday, per Hull Daily Mail.

KR could have numerous new signings on display such as Danny Addy, Jamie Ellis and Nick Scruton.Wakefield Trinity are the only other Super League side in action as they travel to the Tetley’s Stadium to face Dewsbury.

An all-Lancashire affair sees Swinton host Oldham as they both prepare for their second consecutive seasons in the Championship following survival last year. Featherstone Rovers, who featured in last seasons qualifiers, host Hunslet who struggled in League One in 2016.

Two National Conference sides feature in this weekend’s fixtures with Division One side Hunslet Warriors visiting League One Cup holders Keighley Cougars while Castleford Lock Lane host a Castleford Tigers Academy side.

Last seasons Championship runners-up London Broncos are looking to go one better this season and welcome the visit of the British Army in their opening warm-up fixture. The British Army will be using the game to prepare for their Challenge Cup tie with Egremont Rangers on 28th January.

This weekend’s fixtures in full:

Saturday 7th January

  • Castleford Lock Lane vs Castleford Tigers U19’s
  • London Broncos vs British Army

Sunday 8th January

  • Keighley Cougars vs Hunslet Warriors
  • Hull FC vs Hull KR
  • Dewsbury Rams vs Wakefield Trinity
  • Featherstone Rovers vs Hunslet RLFC
  • Swinton Lions vs Oldham RLFC

2017 League One Cup draw made

Whitehaven and Workington Town will meet in a cup competition for the first time since 2013 after drawing each other in the opening round of the League One Cup. Both Cumbrian sides suffered relegation from the Championship last season and as a result will compete in this season’s competition.

Reigning champions Keighley Cougars, who beat York City Knights in last year’s final at Bloomfield Road, will start their defence against Doncaster.

York will host North Wales Crusaders, who won the inaugural competition in 2015, in the opening round. Rochdale Mayfield will represent the National Conference League after winning the 2016 Premier League title and they will host Barrow Raiders in the first round.

League One’s newest side Toronto Wolfpack won’t compete in the tournament.

The first round sees the sides split into two pools with pool A containing ‘northern’ sides while pool B features the ‘southern’ sides. The games will be played on the weekend of 18th-19th February.

Here is the draw in full:

Pool A

  • Rochdale Mayfield vs Barrow Raiders
  • Hunslet RLFC vs Newcastle Thunder
  • Keighley Cougars vs Doncaster RLFC
  • Whitehaven vs Workington Town
  • York City Knights vs North Wales Crusaders

Pool B

  • Oxford RL vs Coventry Bears
  • South Wales Ironmen vs London Skolars
  • Hemel Stags vs University of Gloucestershire All Golds