Championsip Rugby League Set to return to Sky in 2015

Super League has announced that it has agreed a new five-year contract with Sky Sports that will have a transformational impact on Rugby League as the sport enters an exciting new era.

The new contract comes into place from 2017 and will extend Rugby League’s hugely successful partnership with Sky Sports into a fourth decade.

As part of the deal, Sky Sports will provide enhanced coverage of the whole sport, including the resumption of live Championship action from 2015 when Rugby League embraces the exciting new league structures that see two divisions of 12 teams split into three groups of eight in the closing stages of the season.

Super League and RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood said: “I am delighted that we have been able to agree a new contract with Sky Sports that will extend our hugely successful partnership until the end of the 2021 season. “The association with Sky Sports has enabled Rugby League to realise many of its ambitions over the last two decades and this new contract will allow the whole sport to grow still further as we enter an exciting chapter in our history. “Throughout our negotiations it was clear that Sky were genuinely excited by the league structures that we are putting in place from 2015 onwards. “Whilst the new contract does not come into effect until 2017, it allows for the return of live Championship action to Sky Sports from next year which will complement their first class coverage of the First Utility Super League and capture the thrills and drama of new-look competitions where every match matters.
“Following on from the success of Rugby League World Cup 2013, the forging of significant commercial partnerships around the First Utility Super League and the decision by the clubs to embrace the new league structures, this is another momentous day for the sport. “This really is a fantastic time to be a Rugby League supporter.”

Sky Sports Managing Director Barney Francis said: “This new deal is great news for Sky Sports and our customers, who will enjoy at least eight more years of live Rugby League and an exciting new structure for the sport in the UK.
“This new deal will take Sky’s partnership with the RFL to 30 years, 26 of those between Sky Sports and Super League. Now, at the dawn of an exciting new era for Rugby League, we’re thrilled that the premier competition in the UK will continue to be available only on Sky Sports until at least 2021.
“We are also pleased to be bringing even more live coverage, with over 80 matches in 2014 and over 100 a season from 2015 onwards.”

As well as a new contract from 2017 to 2021, the RFL has agreed a number of changes to the current deal with Sky Sports that runs to the end of the 2016 season. These include regular live action from the Kingstone Press Championship in 2015 and additional coverage of Catalan Dragons home games from 2014.

The 2014 First Utility Super League season kicks off on Friday February 7 live on Sky Sports when Wigan Warriors begin their defence of the title with a match against 2013 League Leaders Huddersfield Giants at DW Stadium (8.00).

Once again as a cold January afternoon rolled around and the Skolars and Wigan teams began to arrive at the HAC, there were already some great skills on show out on the field as 6 of London Skolars partner Primary Schools took part in the annual PCubed Challenge.

Year on year the tournament has grown in quality and stature, and with 3 debutant schools visiting the venue for the first time it was a very excited group of school children that arrived at Bank Station that morning before the walk down to the HAC.

Drawn into two groups – all teams would enjoy 3 fixtures across the course of the morning. Long-standing partner school Keble Prep from Winchmore Hill were drawn in Group one alongside debutants Belmont Primary and Coldfall. In group 2 the lone debutant was St Michaels School from Highgate, who were drawn alongside tournament veterans Lordship Lane and Rhodes Avenue.

Refereed superbly by London RL referees Tom Logan and James Jaundrell, all teams showed some incredible skill and knowledge of the game to produce some thrilling encounters. An upset in the first game saw Coldfall beat Keble Prep and the debutant school from Muswell Hill were clearly well versed in the TAG form of the game and were in pole position to top the group from then on in. In the opposite group Rhodes Avenue, who had some superb players who caught the eye of both the watching Skolars coaches and Wigan Community staff, stormed to the top of their group, with convincing wins over Lordship Lane and St Michaels.

As the groups finished, the final standings were clear and Coldfall would face Rhodes Avenue in the final game of the tournament, a repeat of the Haringey TAG Championship held at Skolars New River pre-Christmas. That match finished with only one score separating the teams and this one did not disappoint either – Coldfall eventually overcoming their rivals by 5 scores to 3 in front of a large crowd that had started to gather for the main game.

All schools stayed around to form a guard of honour for the main game and cheered loudly as the two first team’s entered the field, then at half-time, they were presented with their medals by the two guest speakers for the day in Martin Offiah and Jamie Peacock, who both spoke so very highly of the behaviour and rugby ability of each school participating.
Skolars Community Officer, Matt Cuss commented on the tournament saying ‘each school was an absolute pleasure to have here today; we saw some wonderful rugby played and the children really enjoyed the day. Once again the opportunity to play at such an iconic venue is one that our Primary schools look forward to each year and we would like to thank our sponsors PCubed for their continued support of the event.

Pictured above are the victorous Coldfall team(in black and white) with defeated finalists Rhodes Avenue and Rugby League legends jamie Peacock and Martin Offiah.

In the first of a series of interviews with Skolars playing and coaching personnel Ian Ramsdale talked to new Skolars signing Matt Bradley after his debut in the Capital Challenge match against Wigan Warriors:

Half-back Matt Bradley is confident he will continue his rapid development, under the instruction of Skolars’ head coach Joe Mbu.

Bradley signed with Skolars for 2014, having played for the University of Gloucestershire All Golds in last season’s Championship 1.

“I am really enjoying it, with Joe’s coaching,” Bradley told the Rugby League Down South podcast, “I’m glad I made the move.

“I had a good end to the Championship 1 season last year – I grew as the games went on.

“Hopefully I can just keep going and progressing under Joe.

“This year hopefully I can step on again, and with the pack we’ve got here it should be a bit easier for me this year. I’m looking forward to it.

Bradley played his first game for the side in Friday’s traditional season opener, the Capital Challenge.

There was a record crowd of 805 for the event, which this year celebrated it’s 10th year. Skolars lost 48-0 to a very impressive and young Wigan Warriors XIII, packed with talent mostly from their championship winning u19s side.

“I enjoyed it, all the lads did,” said Bradley. “When you’re coming up against some of the best talent out there it’ll always be tough.

“We got out of it what we wanted to. It’s something I work on.

Skolars have another few pre-season games before their Championship 1 season begins,

“The set up we’ve got is great. And the New River stadium being refurbished this year, it’s onwards and upwards.”

You can hear more from Matt Bradley, and coach Joe Mbu, in the latest episode of Rugby League Down South – a podcast about the sport across the south.

Skolars got a tough run out for their first pre-season game against a Wigan side that contained a number of youngsters with Super League experience and several more that will undoubtedly play at that level this season.

Skolars worked hard to deny the young Warriors a score until the 26th minute, but with superior fitness and the ability to create the gaps in the defence for the three quarterline to take advantage of, it always looked like the visitors would be the first to score.

The opening try came from the forwards though. Rhys Pusgley broke through the defence with fellow prop Sam Hopkins touching down. They forced a drop out soon afterwards and stretched the defence out on the right for Dom Mandfridi to score.

Wigan scored a third try just before half-time when he finished off a move started by the two half-backs.

With London ringing the changes after the break, more gaps started to appear for the visitors. Gelling broke from halfway with Jamie Doran finishing off. The next set of six saw David Thompson break down the left wing before passing inside for Tierney’s second try. It wasn’t long before Manfridi added his second, a Gelling pass into space unleashing him for another long range effort to the City End.

Smokie Junor went close for Skolars, but couldn’t pierce the defence. Wigan attacked from deep again with Tierney and Jack Higginson sending over Jack Murphy.

Gelling set up another try for Manfridi’s hat-trick when he use his height to pass the ball over the heads of the defence whilst being tackled short of the line.

Another race down the line saw Manfridi add his fourth try, but not without a determined chase by Junor, who managed to catch his opposite number as the line approached, but he crashed at speed into the goal posts whilst twisting as he tried to hold Manfridi up. It was clearly a bad injury and it was another ten minutes before
Jack Shorrocks converted his sixth goal, with Junor on his way to hospital with a suspected broken femur.

Skolars’ commitment was shown to the end with Jamie O’Callaghan denying Wigan another long range effort with a fine tackle after a chase for 50 metres.

London Skolars coach Joe Mbu said, “This is our first game and if that it what we showed in our first game, then I am really looking forward to our fourth and fifth games. The boys will take an awful lot from the game.

“The injury to Smokie has taken the gloss off the afternoon. But I don’t want to say more until we know how serious the injury is.”

Wigan coach Matt Peet said, “I am really happy with the squad workout and the performance. It was a very big day for the team and some of them were a little tentative at the start. Most of the boys had never played in such surroundings, and we told them this was a unique opportunity for them. They were a credit to the club.

“Anthony Gelling lead from the front and Dom Manfredi scored four tries. And Rhys Pugsley was also outstanding”.

1 Jamie O’Callaghan
2 Smokie Junor
3 Martin Olima
4 John Paxton
5 Judd Greenhalgh
6 Sam Druce
7 Matt Bradley
8 Oliver Purslow
9 Lloyd O’Connor
10 David Williams
11 Anthony Cox
12 Jaroslaw Obuchowski
13 Sam Wellings

Subs (all used)
14 Lamont Bryan
15 Martyn Smith
16 Louis Robinson
17 Dion Chapman
18 Ade Aderiye
19 Vincent Morris
20 Michael Sykes
21 Michael Greenhalgh

1 Lewis Tierney
2 Dom Manfredi
3 Jack Murphy
4 Anthony Gelling
5 David Thompson
6 Jake Shorrocks
7 George Williams
8 Sam Hopkins
9 Callum Wright
10 Rhys Pugsley
11 Grant Beecham
12 Nick Gregson
13 Rob Lever

Subs (all used)
14 Ben Austin
15 Brad Lawrence
16 Kieran Sharrett
17 Tyler Whittaker
18 Jamie Doran
19 Jake Moore
20 Jack Higginson

Tries: Hopkins (26), Manfredi (30.54,67,70), Tierney (36,47), Doran (45), Murphy (63)
Goals: Shorrocks 6/8

Penalty count: 5-5

Half-time: 0-18
Referee: Jamie Bloem
Attendance: 805

SCORING SEQUENCE: 0-6, 0-12, 0-18,0-22, 0-28, 0-34, 0-38, 0-42, 0-48

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