By CHRIS JONES and STEVE BRADY
Leeds Rhinos director of rugby Kevin Sinfield and Catalans Dragons coach Steve McNamara have both welcomed the news last week that the new Super League season will commence on 11 March, which, coincidentally, is the same date that the NRL will get under way in 2021.
“I was probably expecting late March or early April, but we’ll have enough time for a proper close-season. We’ll certainly be ready when the season starts,” said Sinfield.
“If you put it into perspective, we probably fell like we are behind where we should be at this time of the year.
“A lot of clubs are having difficulties with recruitment, because Covid has hit hard, leading to difficulties with budgets, and players are really tentative about coming over here. When people look at the UK and see the numbers in lockdown, they are looking at us and it’s not all that attractive at the moment. And from our point of view NRL players are over-priced.”
McNamara also said he was pleased that the start-date for Super League 2021 had been put back to March, adding: “Clearly, everybody needs a break following this season. It has taken its toll probably mentally more than physically. When you speak to players you can see the strain they have been through with all the uncertainty, testing procedures, confinements, it’s been really tough.
“Fingers crossed, when we get back we can have supporters and some kind of normality can return to the game. At least with the later start we have got some time to recuperate and regenerate the players.
“It’s a special year next year with the World Cup at the end of it so there’s a whole lot to play for.”
Next year’s Super League Grand Final will be played on October 9 at Old Trafford.
The Magic Weekend also makes a return to the 2021 calendar. It will be played at St James’ Park, Newcastle, on 29 and 30 May.
In the regular season clubs will play 13 home fixtures and 27 games overall. The later start will result in a repeat of the six-team play-off format used in 2020.
“With our players performing at the highest level, late into November, it is important that we give our players time to recover and prepare properly for the 2021 campaign,” said Super League Executive Chairman Robert Elstone.
“Many of them will be looking to force themselves into the selection decisions for the Rugby League World Cup and pre-season will be a key part of their plans.
“What is also clear with the ongoing uncertainty around Covid-19 is that a later start date gives us a better chance of playing more games in front of fans in 2021.”
Fixtures for the 2021 Betfred Super League season will be released in January.
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