A Challenge Cup like never before: Preview

This weekend marks the start of the Challenge Cup, and it will have a distinctly different feel to it.

The first round gets underway on Friday night at the Keepmoat Stadium as Sheffield Eagles host York City Knights.

It will take a different feel, no community sides have entered the famous competition this year, having not played and barely trained since the start of the pandemic.

Only three League One teams will also be taking part. Keighley Cougars, West Wales Raiders and Barrow Raiders will be the only representatives.

Most League One sides did want to take part, but were put off by the need of an extra preliminary round, and therefore putting more pressure on their players having not played for so long.

For every side entering the First Round, this is their first competitive matches in over a year. Ironically, for some, their last matches were in the Challenge Cup, as the Fifth Round ties were in the last weekend before the game was suspended.

For that reason, it will be interesting to see how these clubs line up, and are able to face the challenges that lie ahead of them.

They will also have to cope with playing behind closed doors, something only Super League sides saw in 2020. It will certainly be a different challenge, with no crowd there to help a team through a rough patch or help them over the line in a tough game. At least for now.

Just a week later, we will see the Second Round take place. The draw for which has already taken place. This means sides will have to get used to their new environments quickly should they progress.

Some sides have already had friendlies, so will have an idea of what the new game day atmosphere is like. Some of them may have an advantage in these games.

Either way, this weekend we will see some really interesting games of rugby, as sides below the Super League get to play again.

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