Blackpool beckons as clubs gear up for Northern Rail Cup
Destination Blackpool will be the goal for all 20 clubs when the 2012 Northern Rail Cup gets underway with the first of a series of intriguing group matches on Sunday February 12.
The seaside resort will once again play host to the Northern Rail Cup final on Sunday July 29 when a competition which has continued to grow in stature since its introduction in 2002 is expected to produce another memorable finale.
The success and popularity of the Northern Rail Cup was further demonstrated today when the RFL agreed a one-year contract extension with the title sponsors.
All 20 teams will be determined to secure their place at Bloomfield Road and follow in the footsteps of last season's winners Leigh Centurions, who defeated Halifax 20-16 in a thrilling encounter.
Speaking at the competition's official launch at Primo Ristorante in Leeds on Thursday February 2, RFL Chief Operating Officer Ralph Rimmer said: "I am delighted to announce that Northern Rail have agreed to extend their sponsorship of the Northern Rail Cup until the end of the 2013 season.
"Northern Rail have been proud partners of the RFL for eight years now and we have enjoyed watching the competition go from strength to strength during that period.
“The competition has firmly established itself as one of the sport’s most entertaining competitions in the country and has as a prize a trophy that all Championship players want to get their hands on.
"The Northern Rail Cup has treated us to some dramatic moments in recent years and the past few finals in particular have been among the most exciting games of recent times and 2012 promises to deliver yet more of the same.
"Before then I’m sure fans will enjoy watching the high quality, skilful and entertaining rugby that we have all come to expect from the Championship clubs.”
Northern Rail Area Director, Richard Allan said: “This is our eighth year of sponsorship and we are delighted to have extended our partnership to what I’m sure will be a successful ninth year.
“The Northern Rail Cup continues to provide opportunities for us to connect with fans across the network.
“We remain committed to working with the communities we serve and our partners at the RFL and the clubs to engage with young people and encourage them to become involved in this great game.”
As in previous years, the Northern Rail Cup group stages will be played in two pools with all clubs playing two home games and two away games against teams in their pool. The top four teams in each pool following the conclusion of the group stage fixtures will then progress into an open, unseeded draw for the knock-out quarter-final stage.
The 2012 Northern Rail Cup final will be screened live on Premier Sport.
Defending champions Leigh begin the defence of their title at home to Barrow Raiders while last season's beaten finalists Halifax begin their campaign away to Dewsbury Rams.
2011 Co-operative Championship winners Featherstone Rovers will play their first group game away to Oldham.
The winners of the 2012 Northern Rail Cup final will follow last year’s winners Leigh and Co-operative Championship champions Featherstone Rovers in securing the right to apply for a Super League licence for the period 2015-2017.
The two pools are as follows:
Batley Bulldogs, Dewsbury Rams, Featherstone Rovers, Halifax, Keighley Cougars, London Skolars, Oldham Roughyeds, Rochdale Hornets, South Wales Scorpions, Toulouse Olympique,
Barrow Raiders, Doncaster, Gateshead Thunder, Hunslet Hawks, Leigh Centurions, Sheffield Eagles, Swinton Lions, Whitehaven, Workington Town, York City Knights
The opening group fixtures are as follows:
2012 Northern Rail Cup – Sunday February 12 (all matches kick off at 3.00pm)
London Skolars v Toulouse Olympique, Keighley Cougars v Batley Bulldogs, Dewsbury Rams v Halifax, Oldham v Featherstone, Rochdale Hornets v South Wales Scorpions.
Gateshead Thunder v Doncaster, Hunslet Hawks v Whitehaven, Leigh Centurions v Barrow, Workington Town v Sheffield Eagles, York City Knights v Swinton Lions.