Wales Rugby League’s Coral Challenge Cup home draw jinx struck again on Thursday evening when both Torfaen Tigers and Rhondda Outlaws were drawn away in the first round of the 2020 competition.
Torfaen were the first of the Welsh sides to come out of the hat. They have an interesting match-up with the Great Britain Police, whilst Rhondda Outlaws will continue the recent South Wales tradition of going to Cumbria, having been drawn away to Barrow Island, around 280 miles away from the Rhondda.
It’s the first time in 11 years that Wales have had two clubs in the first stage of the competition, and the last time a Welsh club were drawn at home in this round was in 2015 when Valley Cougars hosted and beat Leicester Storm.
Torfaen, who travelled to Cumbria last year and lost 48-0 to Distington, won’t have as far to go this year, with the Great Britain Police normally playing matches around the Yorkshire area. The last time they had a home draw in the Challenge Cup was in 2015 and they played that match at Stanningley near Leeds, a mere 240 miles from the county of Torfaen.
Tigers head coach Ian Newbury said: “We don’t know a great deal about the Great Britain Police side apart from the fact that they won their first round match in the Cup last year, plus our team manger Byron Edwards who may know about them through his time playing sport with the prison service.
“I’m sure they’re all going to be experienced rugby league players and will no doubt be a tough side, but we did well in the Southern Conference last year and only just lost to the competition’s eventual winners in the quarter finals, so we’ll go up there with a positive attitude and should be a good game.”
Rhondda Outlaws head coach James Allen said: “It’ll be a long journey for us, but it’s a challenge we’ll look forward to. We’re already in our third week of training to prepare for this match so hopefully we’ll have our structures right. Barrow Island will be a very tough side to take on, especially at home, so we’ll need to be at our best.”
The 22 First Round ties will take place over the weekend of 11-12 January, with one to be selected for live streaming by the BBC – the start of their coverage of at least one match from each round of the 2020 competition – and another by the RFL’s Our League cameras.
The first semi-professional clubs, from Betfred League 1, including North Wales Crusaders and West Wales Raiders, will enter at the Third Round stage on the weekend of 8-9 February, and Championship clubs two weeks later in the Fourth Round. Four Super League clubs – Huddersfield Giants, Hull KR, Wakefield Trinity and Toronto Wolfpack – will enter at Round Five on the weekend of 14-15 March, followed by the remaining Super League clubs for Round Six on the weekend of 4-5 April.
The Coral Challenge Cup Final itself will be played more than a month earlier than in 2019 – on Saturday 18 July. And fans still have time to take advantage of a special Early Bird ticket offer, with 25% off all seats meaning tickets now start from only £15 for adults and £3.75 for under 16s.
The RFL has introduced a new and improved ticketing site since the 2019 Coral Challenge Cup Final – eticketing.co.uk/rugbyleague – and all customers will need to set up a new account to take advantage of the Early Bird prices.
2020 Coral Challenge Cup First Round draw: Rochdale Mayfield v London Chargers, GB Police v Torfaen Tigers, Edinburgh Eagles v Ashton Bears, Leigh Miners Rangers v Stanningley, Underbank Rangers v Lock Lane, West Bank Bears v Royal Navy, Featherstone Lions v West Bowling, British Army v Oulton Raiders, Normanton Knights v Longhorns, Barrow Island v Rhondda Outlaws, Pilkingtons Recs v West Hull, Thornhill Trojans v Thatto Heath Crusaders, York Acorn v Hammersmith Hills Hoists, Siddal v Saddleworth Rangers, Sherwood Wolf Hunt v Wests Warriors, Wigan St Patricks v Dewsbury Moor, Distington v Bedford Tigers, Milford v Wigan St Judes, Upton v Jarrow Vikings, Skirlaugh v Hunslet Club Parkside, RAF v Bentley, Ince Rose Bridge v East Hull.
2020 Coral Challenge Cup schedule
December 5: First Round draw (44 Community Clubs)
January 11-12: First Round
January 25-26: Second Round (22 First Round winners)
February 8-9: Third Round (11 Second Round winners, 11 Betfred League 1 clubs)
February 22-23: Fourth Round (11 Third Round winners, 13 English Betfred Championship clubs)
March 14-15: Fifth Round (12 Fourth Round winners, plus four Betfred Super League clubs – Huddersfield Giants, Hull KR, Toronto Wolfpack, Wakefield Trinity)
April 4-5: Sixth Round (8 Fifth Round winners, plus the remaining 8 Betfred Super League clubs)
May 9-10: Quarter Finals
June 6-7: Semi Finals (Double Header, details tbc)
Final: Saturday July 18, Wembley Stadium connected by EE