Centurions and Bulls kick off new era for Championship

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CHAMPIONS Leigh Centurions will usher in an extraordinary new era for the Kingstone Press Championship in 2015 with a home fixture against Bradford Bulls at Leigh Sports Village.

The showdown between two teams with strong promotion ambitions will provide a mouthwatering start to the new season on Sunday February 15 on the most important opening weekend in Championship history.

The 2015 season sees Rugby League embrace an exciting new structure that involves the 12 Super League clubs and 12 Championship clubs splitting into the Super 8s after 23 rounds to determine all the biggest issues of the year: promotion, relegation and Grand Final glory.

Round 1 of the Championship also sees London Broncos welcome Doncaster to The Hive where the team that finished bottom of Super League in 2014 faces the club led by the Championship’s Coach of the Year, Paul Cooke.

Elsewhere, 2014 Championship runners up Featherstone Rovers take on newly-promoted Hunslet Hawks, Sheffield Eagles travel to Dewsbury Rams, Whitehaven host Halifax and Batley Bulldogs are at home to Workington Town.

RFL chief operating officer Ralph Rimmer said: “The new league structure allows for the return of sustainable promotion and relegation across all competitions and with so much at stake for every club, 2015 promises to be the greatest Championship season of all.

“The Super 8s and Summer Bash will each bring their own exciting new dimension to a year where every minute of every match will matter for every club.”

Each team will play 23 games in the regular season: home and away against the other 11 clubs plus, and in an exciting new addition to the Rugby League calendar, one additional fixture in the Summer Bash at Bloomfield Road in Blackpool over the Bank Holiday weekend of May 23 - 24. Details of fixtures and ticket availability for the Summer Bash will be announced in mid-November.

The Summer Bash sees a whole round of Kingstone Press Championship fixtures, three on each day take place over two action-packed days at the world’s most famous seaside resort. As well as the Championship games, Blackpool will also host the final of the new League 1 Cup on the Saturday and feature a fantastic package of activities off the field to keep the whole family entertained.

After all 23 rounds have been played, the top four Championship clubs will join the bottom four of Super League in a Super 8 pool called the Qualifiers. The remaining eight Championship clubs will go on to a Super 8 pool called the Championship Shield.

After playing each other once, the top three Qualifiers will be awarded Super League status in 2016 with the final promotion spot determined by the Million Pound Game involving team four and five.

The Championship Shield will culminate with play-off final at the Kingstone Press Championship Finals Day on October 4, an event which will also feature two other matches: the League 1 play-off final and the Conference Challenge Trophy final.

The teams finishing seventh and eighth in the Championship Shield after seven fixtures will be relegated to League 1 for 2016.

Sky Sports will screen selected matches from the Kingstone Press Championship in 2015, including all six matches from the Summer Bash at Blackpool.

2015 KEY DATES – KINGSTONE PRESS CHAMPIONSHIP

February

Weekend of 12-15 – Championship Round One

March

Weekend of 21-22 – Challenge Cup 4th round (Championship clubs enter)

April

Weekend of 11-19 - Challenge Cup 5th round (bottom four clubs from Super League in 2014 enter)

May

Weekend of 16-17 – Challenge Cup 6th round (top eight Super League clubs from 2014 enter)

Weekend of 23-24 – Summer Bash at Blackpool

June

Weekend of 27-28 – Challenge Cup quarter-finals

August

Weekend of 1-2 – Challenge Cup semi-finals

Weekend of 8-9 – Super 8s begin – Super League, Qualifiers and Championship Shield

Saturday 29th – Challenge Cup final at Wembley

September

Weekend of 26-27 – Championship Shield semi-finals

October

Weekend of 3-4 – The Million Pound Game and Championship Shield Final