Reserves Rugby League returns this week – Storm Eunice permitting – with Friday’s Hull FC versus Hull KR derby the pick of the six first round ties.
The 13-team competition involves England’s 10 Betfred Super League clubs, plus three from the Betfred Championship, and will run alongside an Under-18s Academy competition.
The two competitions will be played on alternate weeks through the season to help clubs manage the demands on players, with Academy Rugby League returning on Thursday 10 March.
Reserves and Academy Rugby League are mandatory for all English Super League clubs, plus those running Licensed Academies meaning that Bradford Bulls, London Broncos and Newcastle Thunder are also involved.
Hull KR coach Danny McGuire says: “I’m excited. It’s my first challenge as coach.
“I feel there were some missed opportunities for players last year; this gives lads aged 19-20 the opportunity to play regular Rugby League. I’ve always been a big backer of the Academy – I love to see young, exciting players come through the system and get opportunities.
“We’ve got a lot of players putting pressure on some of our senior players and they get a chance to express themselves in reserves – it will be a good challenge for them.”
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Hull FC’s Head of Emerging Talent, Michael Shenton, is also relishing the prospect of Friday night’s game.
He says: “It’s really important that we have a reserve grade competition back again, especially for those who are in their second year with us now. They’ve obviously had that year at Academy level, so they’re a little bit more skilful and they know what level to expect at that level.
“But coming up to Reserve level, where you are coming up against some good sides who have deep first team squads, they’ll be facing first team fringe players and it will provide our youngsters with a great insight to feature in games like that.
“For their development, playing week in, week out is exactly what we want for them. If we can get some of our 18-year-olds playing 20 or more games this year, that is going to be a big plus.”
This week’s Reserves fixtures are as follows (subject to weather advice relating to Storm Eunice).
Friday 18 February
Huddersfield Giants v Salford Red Devils – Huddersfield YMCA, 7.30pm
Hull FC v Hull KR – University of Hull, 7pm
Leeds Rhinos v Newcastle Thunder – Stanningley RLFC 7pm
St Helens v Bradford Bulls, Totally Wicked Stadium, 7.30pm
Wakefield Trinity v Castleford Tigers – The Be Well Support Stadium, 7pm
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Saturday 19 February
Warrington Wolves v London Broncos – Victoria Park, 12noon
Dave Rotheram, RFL’s Chief On-Field Officer, adds: “This is yet another positive development for Rugby League in 2022 and a credit to clubs who are making a critical contribution to the sport’s performance pathway.
“Running the two competitions on alternate weeks means that clubs only have to field one team beneath first grade on a weekly basis. This helps clubs manage workloads while still offering valuable development opportunities for talented young players and the appropriate level of challenge for senior squad members.”
Both the Reserves and Under-18s Academy competitions will conclude with play-off series, designed to create high-pressure matches to aid athlete development and stimulate supporter interest.
The complete Reserves and Under-19s Academy fixtures are available on the RFL’s online Match Centre.