In 2005, Super League made a big change to the Challenge Cup.
You’ll notice that in rugby union and football all the big finals tend to happen in May.
The Champions League Final, the FA Cup Final and the Gallagher Premiership Final all happen around May but occasionally slip into June.
This was the same in rugby league once upon a time when the sport also adopted a winter calendar starting in September and ending in May with the Challenge Cup Final alongside the Premiership.
The dawn of Super League changed much about the rugby league calendar including a switch to summer rugby with the season starting in February and culminating in a Grand Final often held in October.
However, the Challenge Cup Final initially remained in May with the Challenge Cup rounds coming at the start of the season but in 2005 that changed with the final being moved to the end of the season, or at least close to it, in August.
This made winning both the Cup Final and Grand Final more of an achievement with them in such close proximity.
This remained the case until 2020 when it was set to move to July only to end up in October due to the pandemic. Then in 2021 it returned to May and in 2022 it was the same again however in 2023 we will see it return to August with the final on 12th.
The final returns to its spiritual home of Wembley Stadium and it will host a double header with both the men’s and women’s finals taking place together for the first time.
It will also include the 1895 Cup Final for Championship sides.
This comes after the final was held at Tottenham Hotspurs’ new stadium in 2022.
But what about the rest of the tournament?
Super League clubs will join the competition in May at Round Six before the quarter-finals take place in June prior to the semi-finals in July in what will likely be a double header like in recent years.
BBC will again lead the coverage of the tournament but ViaPlay – renamed Premier Sports – will show games in Round Six and the Quarter-Finals.
Here is a full list of dates for this year’s tournament and when new teams enter the competition:
February 11th-12th: Challenge Cup Round One – 36 UK based community teams
February 25th-26th: Challenge Cup Round Two – 10 National Conference & 10 League One teams
March 9th-12th: Challenge Cup Round Three – Championship sides except Toulouse
March 30th-April 2nd: Challenge Cup Round Four
April 20th-23rd: Challenge Cup Round Five
May 18th-21st: Challenge Cup Round Six – Super League sides enter
June 15th-18th: Challenge Cup Quarter-Finals
July 22nd: Challenge Cup Semi-Finals
August 12th: Challenge Cup Final