Challenge Cup final: RFL postpones Wembley showpiece but hopes to complete competition

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Warrington beat St Helens at Wembley in last season’s Challenge Cup final

This season’s Challenge Cup final has been postponed after the Rugby Football League conceded it will not take place at Wembley on 18 July.

However, the RFL remains hopeful of staging the competition this year and playing the final at the national stadium, even behind closed doors.

The sixth-round draw was made only days before rugby league was stopped because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hull KR owner Neil Hudgell expects it to be July before the sport resumes.

The sixth-round ties had been due to be played on the weekend of 4-5 April, with the quarter-finals on 9-10 May and the semi-finals scheduled for a triple-header with the women’s Challenge Cup final at the University of Bolton Stadium on the weekend of 6-7 June.

The postponements of all three rounds, and now the final, means there remains a possibility that this year’s competition will have to be reformatted and redrawn.

Of the 16 teams left in the cup, five are from the Championship and League One, with no guarantee that either of those competitions will be restarted this season.

However, conversations have taken place between the RFL and Wembley about a new date for the final, and the stadium would be available on several dates later in the year.

The RFL would prefer to play the final there – even if there were no paying customers watching – to retain a sense of occasion. But a switch to another venue is also possible.

The AB Sundecks 1895 Cup final, a competition for Championship and League One sides, which was due to take place at Wembley prior to the Challenge Cup final has also been postponed.

An RFL spokesperson said: “The intention remains for the finals to be played later in the year – contingent on the public health situation and government advice.

“Supporters who have bought tickets for the finals are advised that they will be valid for any rearranged date.”

This was due to be the first year of the final being staged in July. It has been played over the August bank holiday weekend since 2005 after moving from the showpiece’s previously traditional May slot.

Since the inception of the Challenge Cup – rugby league’s oldest knockout cup competition – in 1897, there have been only five years when it has not been competed for.

It was shelved for four years during World War One and again in 1940 during World War Two.

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