The Betfred Championship campaign kicks off this weekend, and we have a full preview of all of the round 1 fixtures here.
Dewsbury Rams vs Sheffield Eagles
Date: Friday 2nd February
Venue: The Tetleys Stadium
The first fixture of the 2018 Betfred Championship season sees Dewsbury Rams welcome Sheffield Eagles to the Tetleys Stadium on Friday night.
The home side will be looking to get off to a better start than they did in 2017, as they were heavily beaten 46-0 by Rochdale Hornets. That was before a late resurgence under Neil Kelly saw the Rams make the top eight and the Championship Shield semi-finals.
The Eagles had a successful year which saw Mark Ashton’s men make the final of the Championship Shield, however they couldn’t overcome Toulouse Olympique in France.
In the last meeting of these two sides, it was Dewsbury who came out on top in a high-scoring encounter with a 35-28 victory at the Beaumont Legal Stadium.
Sheffield have named Jake Spedding, James Bentley, Jack Ashworth and Matty Lees on dual-registration from St Helens, as well as Cory Aston who is on loan from Castleford Tigers.
Toulouse Olympique vs Swinton Lions
Date: Saturday 3rd February
Venue: Stade Ernest Argeles
Championship Shield winners Toulouse Olympique start their 2018 campaign by entertaining Swinton Lions on Saturday afternoon.
The French outfit missed out on the top four, however they managed to pick up some silverware to ensure their first season back in the second tier wasn’t too disappointing.
Swinton’s future in the division was in doubt up until their penultimate fixture, where a win over Oldham sent their neighbours down and kept themselves up.
The last meeting of these two sides was the final regular fixture of the season, as Toulouse picked up a narrow 38-34 home victory. Earlier in the year the Lions did taste success over their French counterparts though, with a 27-20 triumph at Heywood Road.
William Barthau is in line to make his 100th career appearance after returning to TO from London Broncos, although they will be without the injured Johnathon Ford and Kuni Minga who has been released. The visitors are without Ben Austin, as he sustained a broken nose in a pre-season fixture with Salford Red Devils.
Featherstone Rovers vs Halifax RLFC
Date: Sunday 4th February
Venue: LD Nutrition Stadium
Two of last season’s success stories will battle it out during round one, as Featherstone Rovers and Halifax go head-to-head on Sunday.
Both sides made the top four and competed in the Qualifiers, and will be looking to repeat that feat again in 2018.
When they met during pre-season it was the Rovers who came out on top with a 20-16 victory, and they were also victorious in their Super 8’s fixture winning 26-20 at The Shay.
Halifax did win at the LD Nutrition Stadium back in July, however that is their only victory in their last six meetings with Featherstone.
Jacob Fairbank is in line to feature after signing a permanent deal with ‘Fax, while the hosts are set to hand new signing Mitch Clark his debut.
Leigh Centurions vs Toronto Wolfpack
Date: Sunday 4th February
Venue: Leigh Sports Village
Toronto Wolfpack will make history on Sunday, as they take on Leigh Centurions in their first ever Betfred Championship fixture.
There were contrasting fortunes for the two clubs, as the Canadian outfit were promoted while Neil Jukes’ side were relegated from Super League.
Toronto are targeting another promotion this season, and with plenty of top flight experience in their ranks they will be one of the favourites to top the Championship.
They have added former Widnes Vikings forward Jack Buchanan to their squad as well as Nick Rawsthorne from Halifax. Leigh have bolstered their squad too, with their parachute payment behind them, and will be looking to return to Super League at the first attempt.
With a lot of former Centurions lining up for the Wolfpack, on and off the field, this is set to be an intriguing encounter.
London Broncos vs Barrow Raiders
Date: Sunday 4th February
Venue: Ealing Trailfinders
Barrow Raiders start their Betfred Championship campaign with a trip down south, as they face London Broncos on Sunday.
Paul Crarey’s men were promoted from League 1 in 2017 and they face a tough start as fixtures against Toronto Wolfpack and Leigh Centurions follow. Their preparations for the new season were hampered last week after their warm-up game against Whitehaven was postponed.
London are adapting to life under new coach Danny Ward, as Andrew Henderson left to take up an assistant coach role at Warrington Wolves.
The Broncos are without Elliot Kear, who will be likely to return from injury in round four, while Matt Davis will be assessed after picking up a bicep injury during pre-season.
It will be a tough test for Ward to follow last year’s brilliant campaign as they made the top four, while Barrow will be looking to retain their place in the second tier.
Rochdale Hornets vs Batley Bulldogs has been postponed due to the pitch being unplayable.
— NothingButLeague 🏆 rugby league website 🏆 (@NothingButRL) February 1, 2018