2015 Super League ushers in exciting new era

The most exciting era in the history of Rugby League since the sport switched to summer in 1996 will kick off with six fixtures in a new-look First Utility Super League over the weekend of February 5-8 2015.

The sport’s flagship competition features 12 clubs from next season, when a league structure allowing for the return of promotion and relegation will ensure that every minute of every match in every competition matters.

Super League General Manager Blake Solly said: “2015 is going to be a momentous year, not just for the First Utility Super League but every Rugby League supporter and there is already a huge sense of anticipation ahead of the new season.

“The league structure allows for changes that will bring unprecedented levels of excitement, drama and jeopardy to a game that has an unrivalled ability to deliver world class sporting action.

“Our very own ‘Ryder Cup of Rugby League’, the World Club Series, a fantastic trip to Newcastle for Magic Weekend, the Super 8s, Million Pound Game and, of course, the Grand Final all make for what I am sure will be a compelling year.”

St Helens will begin their defence of the title they famously clinched at Old Trafford last week with a home fixture against Catalans Dragons on Friday February 6 in front of the Sky Sports cameras.

Wigan Warriors, the 2014 runners-up, get the new season underway with the opening televised fixture at Widnes Vikings on Thursday February 5 whilst Challenge Cup holders Leeds Rhinos head to Hull Kingston Rovers in one of four fixtures staged on Sunday February 8.

Elsewhere Castleford Tigers entertain local rivals Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, Huddersfield Giants host Hull FC and Salford Red Devils travel to Warrington Wolves.

Later in the month, Super League’s three top clubs of 2014, St Helens, Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves go head to head with NRL sides South Sydney Rabbitohs, Brisbane Broncos and St George-Illawarra in the World Club Series.

Other highlights in the domestic fixture schedule include a tasty East Yorkshire derby at Easter for Hull FC versus Hull KR and Wigan meeting St Helens on Good Friday in a repeat of the 2014 Grand Final.

Magic Weekend 2015 will take place at St James’ Park, Newcastle, where six Round 16 fixtures will be played on Saturday May 30 and Sunday May 31. Full details of the Magic Weekend matches, including ticket availability will be announced on Monday November 17.

The top eight Super League clubs from 2014 will enter the Challenge Cup at the sixth round stage over the weekend of May 17-18, one round later than in previous years; the clubs that finished last season in ninth to 12th places will enter the Cup in Round 5. The 2015 Challenge Cup final will be played at Wembley Stadium on Saturday August 29.

After all 23 rounds of the regular season, Super League and the 12-team Kingstone Press Championship will split into three separate leagues, the Super 8s called Super League, the Qualifiers and Championship Shield.

The top eight of Super League will compete for a place in the Grand Final while the bottom four will join the top four from the Championship to make up the Qualifiers. After playing seven matches the top three Qualifiers will gain Super League status in 2016 with the final promotion spot decided by the Million Pound Game between teams four and five.

The pick of the action will once again be screened live on Sky Sports, who will televise around 100 Rugby League games in 2015, including regular Super League matches every Thursday and Friday evening.

Blake Solly said: “The importance of the exposure the sport gets through its partnership with Sky Sports cannot be overstated and I am delighted that our main broadcast partner will be capturing all the drama and excitement of Rugby League’s new era in 2015.

“I am also excited about Thursday Night Super League, which has been extremely successful in delivering a new and bigger television audience to the sport.

“By scheduling all Thursday night regular season matches immediately upon the release of fixtures and working with clubs to promote these matches, we are confident that Super League can increase Thursday night crowds as well.”

Full details of the new league structure, including an easy-to-understand video, can be found by visiting www.extraordinaryrugby.com

Weekend of 5-8 – Super League Round One
Weekend of 20-22 – World Club Series

Weekend of 11-12 – Challenge Cup 5th round (teams who finished 9th to 12th in 2014 season enter)

Weekend of 16-17 – Challenge Cup 6th round (teams who finished 1st to 8th in 2014 season enter)
Weekend of 30-31 – Magic Weekend at St James’ Park, Newcastle

Weekend of 27-28 – Challenge Cup quarter-finals

Weekend of 1-2 – Challenge Cup semi-finals
Weekend of 8-9 – Super 8s begin
Saturday 29th – Challenge Cup final at Wembley

Weekend of 3-4 – Super League Semi-finals and The Million Pound Game
Saturday 10th – 2015 First Utility Grand Final.