St Helens will aim to make a double slice of history for Women’s Rugby League in 2023 after being drawn against London Broncos in the group stage of the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup.
Saints have won the Cup in each of the last two seasons and are aiming to complete a hat-trick at Wembley Stadium on August 12, with the Women’s Final to be played before the Betfred Challenge Cup Final for the first time.
The holders are already guaranteed to face London opposition for the first time after they were drawn to play local rivals Warrington Wolves, 2019 finalists Castleford Tigers, and the Broncos – who are one of two teams from the Betfred Super League South competing in the Challenge Cup in 2023.
The others, Cardiff Demons, will have ties against three resonant Rugby League names after being drawn against Featherstone Rovers, Salford Red Devils and Wigan Warriors.
Leeds Rhinos, the Betfred Women’s Super League champions, are in an all-Yorkshire group with Bradford Bulls, Huddersfield Giants and Oulton Raidettes, while York Valkyrie’s early fixtures following their rebrand will include ties against Barrow Raiders, Leigh Leopards and Hull KR.
The draws for the first two rounds of the 2023 Betfred Challenge Cup were also held at Wembley Stadium on Thursday evening, conducted by Wigan’s London-born England star Kai Pearce-Paul, and the St Helens wing Eboni Partington.
The 18 First Round ties next month will include Dublin City Exiles, who will represent Ireland in the competition for the first time in 21 years, travelling to London to face Hammersmith Hills Hoists of the Southern Conference League.
Edinburgh Eagles will have home advantage against the renowned Challenge Cup battlers Saddleworth Rangers, while Rhondda Outlaws have a lengthy trip from South Wales to East Yorkshire to face Hull Dockers.
The Second Round later in February sees the 10 Betfred League One teams enter the competition, as well as 10 from the Premier Division of the Impact Performance National Conference League.
There are two all-League One ties as Rochdale Hornets face London Skolars, and Doncaster host Oldham, while Cornwall’s first Challenge Cup tie will be at home to Rochdale Mayfield.
Dewsbury Rams, who were beaten by Wigan in the first Challenge Cup Final at Wembley in 1929, have been drawn away at the winners of the First Round tie between the British Army and Barrow Island in Aldershot.
The Betfred Championship clubs enter the competition at the Third Round stage, and will need to win three matches to join the Betfred Super League clubs in the last 16.
Further details of the fixture schedule for the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup, and coverage of the First Round of the Betfred Challenge Cup, will be confirmed as soon as possible.
Betfred Challenge Cup
First Round – ties to be played February 10-12
Fryston Warriors v Thornhill Trojans, Featherstone Lions v GB Police, Skirlaugh v Wests Warriors, Hull Dockers v Rhondda Outlaws, London Chargers v North Herts Crusaders, Doncaster Toll Bar v RAF, Hammersmith Hills Hoists v Dublin City Exiles, Brentwood Eels v Bedford Tigers, Stanningley v Milford, Royal Navy v Barrow Island, West Bowling v Waterhead, Westgate Common v Crosfields, British Army v Ashton Bears, Edinburgh Eagles v Saddleworth Rangers, Wigan St Patricks v Ince Rose Bridge, Distington v Orrell St James, Heworth v Oulton Raiders, Jarrow Vikings v Myton Warriors
Second Round – ties to be played February 24-26
Jarrow or Myton v Leigh Miners Rangers, Skirlaugh or Wests v Chargers or North Herts, Hull Dockers or Rhondda v Midlands Hurricanes, Army or Ashton v Dewsbury Rams, Fryston or Thornhill v Stanningley or Milford, Workington Town v Wigan St Patricks or Ince Rose Bridge, Rochdale Hornets v London Skolars, Distington or Orrell v Hammersmith or Dublin, Cornwall v Rochdale Mayfield, Hunslet v Heworth or Oulton, Siddal v West Hull, Brentwood or Bedford v Wath Brow, North Wales Crusaders v Navy or Barrow Island, Toll Bar or RAF v York Acorn, Lock Lane v West Bowling or Waterhead, Featherstone Lions or GB Police v Westgate or Crosfields, Hunslet ARLFC v Pilkingtons Recs, Doncaster v Oldham, Edinburgh or Saddleworth v Thatto Heath Crusaders
Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup – Group Stage
Group One – Featherstone Rovers, Salford Red Devils, Cardiff Demons, Wigan Warriors
Group Two – Bradford Bulls, Huddersfield Giants, Oulton Raidettes, Leeds Rhinos
Group Three – Warrington Wolves, Castleford Tigers, London Broncos, St Helens
Group Four – Barrow Raiders, Leigh Leopards, Hull KR, York Valkyrie