On the Wembley way! Coral Challenge Cup draw tonight….

The draw for the First Round of the Coral Challenge Cup will be broadcast live by BBC Sport Online tonight (Thursday 5 December, 6.30pm) writes Andrew Donnelly.

It’s an opportunity for the game to celebrate the impact of the CreatedBy RLWC2021 capital grants programme as the draw is being hosted by Doncaster’s Bentley ARLFC – one of the dozens of amateur Rugby League clubs to have successfully applied for a share of the grant funding available through Rugby League World Cup 2021’s legacy programmes.

Presenting the draw will be the BBC’s Dave Woods, while the teams themselves will be drawn by RFL Vice-President and Doncaster chief executive Carl Hall, and the Halifax and England Wheelchair Rugby League player Wayne Boardman.

Boardman last season won the Wheelchair Challenge Cup with Halifax before playing a lead role in England’s successful Ashes tour Down Under, while New Zealander Hall has famously devoted more than 30 years to the game in his adopted country. His club will host three men’s matches at RLWC2021.

Forty-four community clubs will be in the hat, including the club hosting the draw: Doncaster’s Bentley.

The complete list, together with ball numbers, is:
1 Ashton Bears
2 Barrow Island
3 Bedford Tigers
4 Bentley
5 British Army
6 Dewsbury Moor Maroons
7 Distington
8 East Hull
9 Edinburgh Eagles
10 Featherstone Lions
11 Great Britain Police
12 Hammersmith Hills Hoists
13 Hunslet Club Parkside
14 Ince Rose Bridge
15 Jarrow Vikings
16 Leigh Miners Rangers
17 Lock Lane
18 London Chargers
19 Longhorns
20 Milford
21 Normanton Knights
22 Oulton Raiders
23 Pilkington Recs
24 RAF
25 Rhondda Outlaws
26 Rochdale Mayfield
27 Royal Navy
28 Saddleworth Rangers
29 Siddal
30 Sherwood Wolf Hunt
31 Skirlaugh
32 Stanningley
33 Thatto Heath Crusaders
34 Thornhill Trojans
35 Torfaen Tigers
36 Underbank Rangers
37 Upton
38 West Bank Bears
39 West Bowling
40 West Hull
41 Wests Warriors
42 Wigan St Judes
43 Wigan St Patricks
44 York Acorn

Five of those – inaugural champions Hammersmith Hills Hoists, Bedford Tigers, London Chargers, Torfaen Tigers and Wests Warriors – are members of the new Southern Conference League. Representing the Celtic nations will be Ireland’s Longhorns, Edinburgh Eagles from Scotland, and Rhondda Outlaws and Torfaen Tigers from Wales.

Thatto Heath Crusaders, meanwhile, earned significant BBC exposure in 2019 with a run all the way to Round Five, including a landmark victory over North Wales Crusaders of League 1.

Bentley won the Yorkshire Men’s League last season and the club recently benefited from a share of £10 million-plus of funding made available to ensure a lasting legacy for the game from RLWC2021.

The club received a small-scale CreatedBy grant of almost £15,000 to cover the cost of improving the playing experience by installing new goalposts, purchase of lawnmower, line marker and fencing, along with some playing equipment for the development of the game.

Chairman Pete Wainer said: “We’re delighted to have received the World Cup funding, which will make a big difference to us as a community club. And we’re excited about Doncaster’s involvement in the World Cup itself, so to have the chance to stage the Challenge Cup draw is another big boost to the club.

“It is also something that the local community, many of whom are involved with the club in one way or another, can look forward to in the wake of the recent problems the local area has had with the flooding in recent weeks.”

Ties will take place over the weekend on weekend of 11-12 January, when the BBC will begin another year of covering every round.

Betfred League 1 clubs will enter at the Third Round stage on the weekend of 8-9 February and Championship clubs two weeks later in the Fourth Round.

Four Super League clubs – Huddersfield Giants, Hull KR, Wakefield Trinity and Toronto Wolfpack – will enter at Round Five on the weekend of 14-15 March, followed by the remaining Super League clubs for Round Six on the weekend of 4-5 April.

The Coral Challenge Cup Final itself will be played more than a month earlier than in 2019 – on Saturday 18 July. And fans still have time to take advantage of a special Early Bird ticket offer, with 25 per cent off all seats, meaning tickets now start from only £15 for adults and £3.75 for under 16s.

Mark Foster, the RFL’s Chief Commercial Officer, said: “It’s an earlier date for Wembley in 2020, and it’s great to be able to offer these Early Bird prices to our loyal supporters who buy their tickets early every year – as well as to attract some new ones.

“Rugby League celebrates its 125th birthday in 2020 – and what better way to do that than by packing out Wembley Stadium for one of the great days in the British sporting calendar?

“It’s another huge summer of sport with the Euros and the Olympics, and the July date gives Rugby League a great chance to be part of that. It’s during term time, before the school holidays, and we’ve already started making plans to make the most of these new opportunities.”

The RFL has introduced a new and improved ticketing site since the 2019 Coral Challenge Cup Final – eticketing.co.uk/rugbyleague – and all customers will need to set up a new account to take advantage of the Early Bird prices.

The 2020 Coral Challenge Cup schedule is:
Round one: 11-12 January
Round two: 25-26 January
Round three: 8-9 February
Round four: 22-23 February
Round five: 14-15 March
Round six: 4-5 April
Quarter-finals: 9-10 May
Semi-finals: 6-7 June (Details tbc)
Final: Saturday 18 July