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Championship and League 1 starts confirmed

The Championship and League 1 clubs have targeted the weekend of March 21 as the return date for professional Rugby League outside the Super League.

Just as the last Rugby League played before the first National Lockdown in March 2020 was in the Challenge Cup, the game is due to return with the First Round of the 2021 Challenge Cup featuring all 13 UK clubs from the Championship, plus three from League 1, which will be Barrow Raiders, Keighley Cougars and West Wales Raiders.

That will be followed by the Second Round the following weekend, with the winners of those four ties earning a double reward – a place in the Third Round of the Challenge Cup when the 12  Super League clubs join the competition on the weekend of April 10-11, and also in the semi finals of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup in June. Meaning they will be 80 minutes away from a place at Wembley on July 17.

The Championship will kick off from April 2-4 – the Easter weekend – and run until a Top Six Play-Off Series in September and October.

Each team will play nine of the other 13 teams twice, and the other four once, in the 22-round formula that has been agreed with the clubs – with a decision to be made on a possible 23rd round in the Summer Bash in the coming weeks.

For similar reasons, the start of League 1 has been put back until the weekend of May 8-9. This will still allow each team to play the other nine twice in an 18-round season before a Play-Off series.

Details of promotion and relegation mechanisms between the divisions will be discussed and finalised at a meeting of clubs early next month – ahead of publication of fixtures for Championship and League 1.

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