One of the beautiful things about the Betfred Challenge Cup is that amateur, semi-professional and professional rugby league clubs can mix it together in the same tournament.
In 2019 Red Star Belgrade gave it a crack going down to Millom in the first round.
The competition, which has been around since 1896, includes teams from the GB Police, Army, Navy and the Air Force amongst participants across the UK.
Round one in 2023 features three amateur teams outside of England. Edinburgh Eagles, Dublin City Exiles and Rhondda Outlaws (Pontypridd, Wales) will all take part this year.
The 2022 Scottish Cup winners Edinburgh will take on Saddleworth Rangers, from Oldham, at home in a match that will be televised by BBC Sport. Dublin, in their first ever Challenge Cup match, travel to London to meet Hammersmith Hills Hoists, while Rhondda, who made their Cup debut in 2020, are away to Hull Dockers.
For Edinburgh coach Craig Robertson the upcoming televised match presents the club with a chance to promote rugby league to a wider audience.
“It’s a great opportunity to give exposure to the game in Scotland but also to give the opportunity for the players to put their name out there. Not many players get the chance to do that in their lifetime,” Robertson told Everything Rugby League.
The Eagles who were founded in 1998 and first participated in the Challenge Cup in 1999 are not daunted by their opponents from the rugby league heartlands who first played a Challenge Cup match in 1889.
👇 Comment below which game you are most looking forward to… pic.twitter.com/FUHYnZb6Ok
— Betfred Challenge Cup (@TheChallengeCup) February 7, 2023
“It’s a chance to challenge ourselves against higher opposition,” Roberston said.
“We’ve got players from all levels so to go up against teams of a better calibre always brings out the best in players to take into future matches
“We expect them to play down the middle with good links to the wide channels. Personally, this is the best team we’re able to field with a couple new additions that will only add to our game. If we can complete a good percentage of sets I honestly feel we can come away with the win.”
Either way Robertson is happy with the publicity this weekend’s match has attracted for his club and the sport in Scotland.
“We’ve had a lot of exposure since the release of the draw and then more people are taking interest with the release of the game being broadcasted. The downside is that Scotland are at home to Wales in Union later in the afternoon which obviously will have a negative effect but we’ll do our best regardless.”
Saturday 11 February
Edinburgh Eagles vs Saddleworth Rangers 13:15 (Local time) Televised on BBC Sport. Royal High School, Edinburgh
Hammersmith Hills Hoists v Dublin City Exiles 17:00 (Local time) Chiswick Rugby Club, Chiswick. London.
Hull Dockers v Rhondda Outlaws 14:00 (Local time) The Willows, Hull