The coaches of the 1895 Cup final back this year’s format for 2022

This year’s AB Sundecks 1895 Cup Final coaches James Webster and James Ford have both backed the competition’s 2021 format, and would like it to continue next season.

The 1895 Cup this year saw the four clubs that progressed furthest in the Betfred Challenge Cup become semi-finalists, with Featherstone beating Widnes and York knocking out Swinton.

It contrasted with the way that the competition worked on its introduction in 2019, in a 16-team knock-out format that required midweek matches, which were not taken seriously by a host of clubs.

It would have worked that way in 2020 too, but for Covid, and both coaches feel the changes made this year helped significantly.

Speaking before Saturday’s Wembley final, Webster said: “There have been similar competitions to this down the years with different names.

“I really enjoyed the format this year.

“Using the early rounds of the Challenge Cup to qualify, it seemed like it had a bit more prestige about it and made it feel more like a proper Cup run.

“There have been other formats, including round robins, and last year it was meant to be a midweek competition, but this year being stand alone on the weekends was better.

“Being at Wembley adds a lot to it and makes it a really worthwhile competition.

“If they structured it similar to what they did in previous years, it loses a bit of its gloss for me.

“But it’s been a great chance to champion the Championship and show that there’s a lot of talent, tradition and pride still in Rugby League communities such as York and Featherstone.

“The midweek element made it difficult and last year it wasn’t high on our agenda because of that.

“I didn’t plan for it and we just said we’d cross that bridge when we came to it.

“This year it was clearly identified as something we were interested in doing, especially with it being our centenary year.

“We wanted to get to Wembley, and that’s the draw, what everyone has been talking about and what everyone wants to do.

“It’s fantastic that you get the chance to do that.”

Opposing coach Ford backed Webster’s stance.

He said: “It’s great for the clubs at our level and below to have a Cup competition that we can realistically win.

“Obviously it’d be a fair overachievement for a Championship club to win the Challenge Cup – I’m not saying it’s impossible but I think we can agree it’d be a real challenge.

“So this is great for the clubs, it’s great for the supporters and the players, and to play on such a big stage reinforces that.

“I agree with Webby on the format.

“They’ve tweaked around with it, but the midweek thing in 2019 made it really hard for clubs in our position.

“I didn’t think we had a big enough squad to play sides around us at the weekend and then field the same team on a Wednesday, so we had to prioritise the league campaign.

“Unfortunately then the 1895 Cup came a very poor second in our priorities.

“This year with the Challenge Cup fixtures doubling up and playing it on the weekend meant you can have a real stab at it, and on the back of that we made the final.

“I’d want it to stay like this, unless somebody can think of a couple of tweaks to improve it further.

“But I wouldn’t recommend going back to Wednesday evening games.

“I think it’s difficult for supporters, it’s difficult for players and I don’t think it’s great for the reputation and prestige of the Cup and the sponsors of the Cup, when sides are fielding weakened sides because they’ve got a game on the weekend.

“I’d certainly support it staying as it is or very similar.”

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