Edinburgh Eagles happy to fly back into Challenge Cup

Edinburgh Eagles president Barry McGuffog says his club’s Challenge Cup involvement presents a great chance to help grow Rugby League in Scotland.

The RFL has confirmed further details of the 121st version of the competition, with the semi-finals due to take place at Elland Road, Leeds on Saturday, May 7.

That’s as part of a triple-header alongside the Women’s Challenge Cup Final, with the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, rather than Wembley, already announced as the venue for the 2022 men’s final on Saturday, May 28.

Tottenham will also host the draw for both the first and second rounds from 5.30pm on Tuesday, December 14.

The first round, on the weekend of January 15/16, will involve the Eagles, Wales’ Bridgend Blue Bulls, Ireland’s Galway Tribesmen, 21 other community clubs and teams from the Army, Navy and RAF as well as Great Britain Police.

The second round, on the weekend of January 29/30, includes League 1 clubs except for newly-formed Cornwall who, like Super League’s Toulouse, are sitting out the competition this time around.

The two draws will be streamed live on the BBC Red Button as well as the RFL’s Our League website and app.

It will be the tenth time in total and the third consecutive year that Edinburgh, the Scottish National League champions, have been involved in the first round, although they didn’t play in the truncated competition in 2021, when no community clubs were involved.

“It’s a big thing for us, and we see it as flying the flag for Scotland, not just Rugby League in Edinburgh,” said former Scotland Students international McGuffog, who played for Barrow Island in his native Cumbria, in France and for Coventry Bears in their pre-League 1 days before becoming involved with the Eagles, initially as coach, in 2016.

“In 2019, we went down to Normanton Knights and were in the tie for quite a while before they pulled away to win 50-16.

“And in 2020, we had a home tie against Ashton Bears. They beat us 58-10, but it was a great experience to play them.

“We know it will be tough, particularly if we draw a heartland team, because a number of our players are from a rugby union background.

“But we are committed to getting stronger as a club and to help expand Rugby League in Scotland. The Challenge Cup helps us gauge where we’re at.”

After the 14 first-round ties, there will be twelve in round two, six in round three, which takes place on the weekend of February 12/13, ten in round four (when Championship clubs enter) on February 26/27, five in round five on March 12/13 and eight in round six (when Super League clubs enter) on March 26/27.

The quarter-finals are on April 9/10.

The 28 first-round entrants are: Army, Bentley, Bridgend Blue Bulls, Edinburgh Eagles, Ellenborough Rangers, Featherstone Lions, Galway Tribesmen, Great Britain Police, Hunslet Club Parkside, Jarrow Vikings, Leigh Miners Rangers, Lock Lane, London Chargers, Milford, Navy, Orrell St James, Pilkington Recs, RAF, Rochdale Mayfield, Siddal, Stanningley, Thatto Heath Crusaders, Thornhill Trojans, Upton, West Hull, Wests Warriors, Wigan St Patricks, York Acorn.

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