Cumbrian clash opens 2011 season
The 2011 season kicks off in early February with a mouth-watering all-Cumbrian clash between Whitehaven and Workington Town, one of ten opening weekend fixtures in the Northern Rail Cup.
Last season’s Co-operative Championship Grand Final winners Halifax will begin the defence of their crown in the south of France with an away game against Toulouse four weeks later.
The opening round of Championship fixtures also features Leigh Centurions hosting Grand Final runners-up Featherstone Rovers in a match scheduled to be broadcast live on Sky Sports.
Promoted Championship new boys Hunslet Hawks and York City Knights will do battle when they meet on the opening weekend but former Great Britain captain Garry Schofield will have to wait until Saturday March 19 for his first match as coach of Barrow Raiders against Leigh Centurions.
Denis Betts, another former Great Britain international now plying his trade in the Championship, will take his Widnes Vikings side to Sheffield Eagles on Sunday, March 13, while the opening round's other fixture is the Heavy Woollen derby between Batley and Dewsbury at Mount Pleasant.
Relegated Keighley Cougars and Whitehaven will both be at home in their opening Championship One fixtures, to London Skolars and Rochdale Hornets respectively.
The Co-operative Championship One clubs will again play 20 fixtures including two additional games – one home, one away - against two other clubs to replace the fixtures against Blackpool Panthers, whose membership of the RFL was cancelled in early November.
As usual, the opening rounds of the Northern Rail Cup will take up the early part of the season and Championship clubs will contest the third round of the Carnegie Challenge Cup before embarking on their league campaign.
The Northern Rail action gets under way on the weekend of February 5-6, a week before the opening round of Super League.
As this year, the 2011 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 pools are as follows:
Pool A: Featherstone Rovers, Doncaster, London Skolars, Widnes Vikings, Toulouse Olympique, York City Knights, Keighley Cougars, Barrow Raiders, Rochdale Hornets, Dewsbury Rams;
Pool B: Swinton Lions, Halifax RLFC, Batley Bulldogs, Leigh Centurions, Gateshead Thunder, Sheffield Eagles, Oldham, Hunslet Hawks, Workington Town, Whitehaven RLFC.
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.