Fixtures have been confirmed for the forthcoming National Conference League season which will be regionalised as grassroots sport follows the Government’s roadmap out of the Covid-19 crisis.
The competition will, as recently declared by NCL bosses, involve seven leagues of seven teams. Six of those leagues will kick off on Saturday 22 May while Cumbria-based League A launches on Saturday 26 June to enable sides in the far northwest to ensure that their clubhouses are fully functional. Cumbrian sides will have no free weekends, and will each play a couple of midweek fixtures, League A thereby closing on the same date as other sections ahead of end-of-season play-offs.
Opening fixtures are:
Saturday 22 May 2021
LEAGUE B: Leigh East v Thatto Heath Crusaders; Pilkington Recs v Wigan St Judes; Wigan St Patricks v Leigh Miners Rangers.
LEAGUE C: Crosfields v Woolston Rovers; Oldham St Annes v Saddleworth Rangers; Rochdale Mayfield v Waterhead Warriors.
LEAGUE D: Hunslet Club Parkside v Oulton Raiders; Hunslet Warriors v Milford; Stanningley v East Leeds.
LEAGUE E: Dewsbury Celtic v Batley Boys; Eastmoor Dragons v Normanton Knights; Gateshead v Shaw Cross Sharks.
LEAGUE F: Bradford Dudley Hill v Underbank Rangers; Drighlington v Thornhill Trojans; West Bowling v Featherstone Lions.
LEAGUE G: Beverley v West Hull; Heworth v Skirlaugh; Hull Dockers v Myton Warriors.
CROSS-LEAGUE: Ince Rose Bridge (B) v Clock Face Miners (C); Dewsbury Moor Maroons (E) v Siddal (D); Lock Lane (F) v York Acorn (G).
Saturday 26 June 2021
LEAGUE A: Barrow Island v Askam; Hensingham v Egremont Rangers; Wath Brow Hornets v Kells. Bye: Millom.
League tables will be determined on a percentage basis and matches that are not played will be treated as cancelled. Each table-topper will receive a trophy and the leading two in each section will, together with the third-placed sides in leagues B and F, contest a seeded knock-out competition, leading to a Grand Final.
The eight first-round losers will take part in a Shield competition, and the 33 teams not involved in the play-offs will be offered places in a Trophy competition; first round losers will contest a Plate competition.
Schools throughout England have been given the chance to have the Rugby League World Cup on display, plus the opportunity to enjoy tournament merchandise.
RLWC2021 launched the initiative last Wednesday (21 April) ahead of the competition, which will take place in England in the autumn and which will involve 21 nations.
Pupils have been asked to showcase why their respective towns or cities are the perfect hosts for what is set to be the biggest and best Rugby League World Cup in history by producing a short video highlighting the best attractions and activities locally, ranging through such as visiting museums, cinemas, and theatres to ice skating at the local ice rink or a day out at the aquarium.
The best entries from each of the host areas will be selected to be a part of the official promotional activity for their town or city. Videos from non-host areas will also be compiled in a special montage showcasing all the other amazing places to visit and things to do across England in preparation for the tournament.
In addition, a grand prize winner will be selected to receive a trophy visit to their school with one of the official RLWC2021 ambassadors and some exclusive RLWC2021 goodies.
Tracy Power, Social Impact Director of RLWC2021, said: “This year’s tournament will be a real celebration of communities, culture and inclusivity, and we are so excited to witness the different atmospheres that each of our host cities and towns will bring to the RLWC2021.
“We believe the best way to showcase and illustrate the diversity and heritage of each city/town is through the voices and expressions of the next generation. This competition is a perfect example of bringing the tournament strapline of `The Power of Together’ to life through this exciting opportunity for schools up and down England.
“We hope that this competition will take RLWC2021 into as many classrooms as possible and continue to deliver on our mission to leave a long-lasting legacy.”
Schools should forward uploaded videos to platform such as YouTube or Vimeo (ideally as a private link) and forward to firstname.lastname@example.org, before Friday 28 May.
The Rugby Football League has amended its `Test and Trace’ guidelines after learning that other sports have taken a different approach to players who have been in close contact with anyone testing positive for Covid-19.
Head of Delivery Community Game Competitions Kelly Barrett stated, in Friday’s weekly missive to clubs: “It has become apparent that our nearest equivalent sports Rugby Union and Netball, are not requiring individuals to isolate simply by virtue of them being involved in training or a match with someone who has tested positive.
“We have therefore, after discussions and approval from DCMS, amended our guidelines and have removed `Sore Throat’ from the lists of symptoms on our screening register, instead inserting a question relating to Isolating due to being in close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 or began developing Covid-19 symptoms in the last ten days, and being told to isolate by NHS test & trace or the NHS app.”
She continued: “If there is a positive test for a player there is no automatic need for other players who took part in activity (training or matches) to self-isolate provided that the activity was delivered in accordance with our Action Plan and Guidelines. If a club is notified of a confirmed positive case, then they must conduct an analysis to identify close contacts.
“NHS Test and Trace will identify those deemed as close contacts. In the event NHS Test and Trace contact an individual they must isolate in line with their instructions provided.”
Barrett also reminded clubs to complete the Our League Active membership survey, stating: “We would appreciate it if you could encourage members of your club to also do this. Once the survey is concluded we would then like to invite those clubs that wish to be involved to attend a focus group with Sandy Lindsay MBE, RFL Non-Executive Director and Community Board Members.”
She also reminded clubs of the grant available from Northern to win a support package which includes £1,000 worth of facility improvement vouchers, training equipment and a full set of match kit for 20 players.
Meanwhile Barrett stressed: “Clubs shouldn’t be advertising any games or encouraging any people to turn up and spectate. It is important that clubs spend time, during the `friendly match’ period, to ensure they have all the Covid measures in place without the added burden of managing spectators. Please remember that local authorities and the police have the ability to impose fines to those that are not observing the government guidelines.”
She concluded: “We would like to clarify the position on players playing in multiple environments. Individuals are permitted to move between two environments within the community game, provided they do not enter more than one environment within a 48 hour period. This means that a player would only be allowed to play one fixture in any given weekend; there must be a gap of 48 hours for Test and Trace purposes.
“Scholarship players are permitted to train and play for their community club whilst also being involved with a scholarship team, an Academy player is not permitted to play in any other environment, and a Women’s Super League player is only permitted to play for that team, they cannot dual register to another club (this remains under review).”
The 2021 Southern Conference League campaign will get underway on Saturday 8 May, with four fixtures in the East Division, while the West Division is to kick-start on Saturday 22 May.
Devon Sharks are new(ish) entrants to the East Division, having been added last year, only for the Covid-19 pandemic to scupper their hopes of action until now.
There will be plenty of interest in how the Sharks, who are based at Bovey Tracey on the edge of Dartmoor and who are partnered with Swinton Lions, will fare.
Meanwhile the launch of the West Division has been put back to allow the two Welsh clubs, Valley Cougars and Torfaen Tigers, to resolve travel issues between England and Wales.
The season will climax with play-offs and a Grand Final on Saturday 18 September at a venue to be confirmed.
Reigning champions Hammersmith Hills Hoists, meanwhile, will launch the defence of their title with a trip to North Herts Crusaders, at Hitchin.
The RFL’s Community Game Competitions Manager Dave Raybould said: “It’s been a long wait, but I can’t remember such a mood of positivity and anticipation around the clubs as we prepare for the season.
“The East Division clubs were all keen to extend their regular season to twelve rounds, and although that hasn’t been possible in the West Division because of the complications around having teams from England and Wales, we are doing all we can to find a way through those problems.”
He continued: “There is more good news in the other regional leagues across the South and the Midlands, with a number of new teams taking part.
“The London League is up from seven to nine clubs, partly because Brixton Bulls have decided that would be a better competition than the SCL for them to rebuild after being particularly badly affected by the pandemic. There are four new teams in the East of England, two in the West and one in the Midlands – our season is starting at a good time as the lockdown restrictions are eased, and we’re offering an opportunity to play competitive rugby through the spring and summer after such a long period of inactivity.”
Opening fixtures are:
Saturday 8 May 2021
East Division: Bedford Tigers v Wests Warriors; North Herts Crusaders v Hammersmith Hills Hoists; London Chargers v Hemel Stags; Eastern Rhinos v South London Silverbacks.
West Division: All Golds v Swindon St George; Valley Cougars v Torfaen Tigers. Bye: Devon Sharks.
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