The 1895 Cup is set for a major reshape with the tournament to feature groups of three and be played during the early months of 2024, with the draw having now been made for the new format.
The new format will see 13 of the Championship clubs, excluding Toulouse, and eight League One clubs, excluding Cornwall, in seven groups of three with each group winner and the best performing second-place team going into a quarter-final draw.
From there the tournament will resemble a standard knockout system with quarters, semi-finals and then a final as well.
The groups have been confirmed now with each one being seeded and regionalised, ensuring that teams have hopefully stronger crowds as they’ll be playing against more local teams.
Moreover it cuts down on the travel for the away teams, lessening the burden for the clubs, with a Cumbrian group being an example featuring Barrow Raiders, Workington Town and Whitehaven.
A statement from the RFL confirmed the groups.
It read: “The opening fixtures of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup are confirmed today, ahead of the competition returning with a new group stage format for 2024.
“13 England-based Championship clubs will join eight League One clubs in seven groups of three teams, with the top team in each group – plus the best-performing second-placed team – going forward to the quarter finals.
“Holders Halifax Panthers, who held off a late comeback by Batley Bulldogs to win 12-10 at Wembley Stadium last August, begin their title defence with a trip to Boundary Park to face Oldham on Sunday 28 January before travelling to Rochdale Hornets the following weekend (4 February).
“Batley, famously three-time winners of the Challenge Cup, including the first in 1897, will hope to go one step further this season and will begin with a home tie against Featherstone Rovers (Sunday 4 February) followed by a trip to Hunslet on Sunday 18.
“Daryl Powell will lead five-time Challenge Cup winners Wakefield Trinity as they make their debut in the competition against York Knights at the LNER Community Stadium on 4 February, before heading north to face Newcastle Thunder later that month (Sunday 18 February).
“2023’s Betfred League One Champions Dewsbury Rams open their campaign at Cougar Park against Keighley Cougars, who were relegated from the Championship in 2023. “
A statement from RL Commercial Managing Director Rhodri Jones added: “We are delighted that AB Sundecks are continuing to support Rugby League and the 1895 Cup, and we look forward to working with them as the competition launches in January with the new look group format. Last year’s final between Halifax and Batley was a nail-biting encounter, and we can’t wait to see who makes it all the way in 2024.”
The final of the 1895 Cup will take place at Wembley on Saturday 8th June alongside both the men’s and women’s Challenge Cup finals.
North Wales Crusaders
AB Sundecks 1895 Cup group stage fixtures
Round One (28 January)
Workington Town v Barrow Raiders
Keighley Cougars v Dewsbury Rams
Newcastle Thunder v York Knights
Oldham RLFC v Halifax Panthers
Hunslet RLFC v Featherstone Rovers
North Wales Crusaders v Swinton Lions
Midlands Hurricanes v Doncaster RLFC
Round Two (4 February)
Whitehaven RLFC v Barrow Raiders
Dewsbury Rams v Bradford Bulls
York Knights v Wakefield Trinity
Rochdale Hornets v Halifax Panthers
Batley Bulldogs v Featherstone Rovers
Swinton Lions v Widnes Vikings
Doncaster RLFC v Sheffield Eagles
Round Three (18 February)
Workington Town v Whitehaven RLFC
Keighley Cougars v Bradford Bulls
Newcastle Thunder v Wakefield Trinity
Oldham RLFC v Rochdale Hornets
Hunslet RLFC v Batley Bulldogs
North Wales Crusaders v Widnes Vikings
Midlands Hurricanes v Sheffield Eagles