Leeds United's Elland Road to hold rugby league triple-header

LEEDS UNITED’S Elland Road stadium will host the 2022 Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup Final on Saturday May 7 as part of a triple-header including the Men’s semi-finals.

Leeds United's Elland Road ahead of the 2018 Test match between England and New Zealand. (CHRIS MANGNALL/SWPIX)
Leeds United's Elland Road ahead of the 2018 Test match between England and New Zealand. (CHRIS MANGNALL/SWPIX)

It is the third time in succession the women’s game has been involved in such an occasion after triumphs for Leeds Rhinos against Castleford Tigers at the University of Bolton Stadium in 2019, and for St Helens against York City Knights at Leigh Sports Village earlier this year.

The Rugby Football League has targeted the Challenge Cup final for smashing the current record for a domestic Women’s Rugby League fixture - 4,235 set at the 2021 Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final at Headingley in October.

Elland Road, which has a long history with rugby league most recently including the England versus New Zealand Test match in 2018, will also host the Women’s Challenge Cup first round draw on Tuesday (December 7).

St Helens celebrate their Betfred Women's Challenge Cup success at York earlier this year. (ALLAN MCKENZIE/SWPIX)

Leeds-born former Liverpool, Manchester City and England football star Gemma Bonner, who currently plays for Racing Louisville in Kentucky and recently ran with Kevin Sinfield in his Extra Mile Challenge for MND, will return to her first club to conduct the draw which will be streamed live on the RFL’s Our League web and app.

With a capacity of almost 38,000, the governing body will hope to attract a bumper attendance for the triple-header.

RFL chief commercial officer Mark Foster said: “The growing profile of Women’s and Girls’ Rugby League has been a huge success story for the game in recent years, and taking the 2022 Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup Final to Elland Road represents another significant step forward.

“Elland Road is a Premier League football stadium with a strong history of staging big Rugby League occasions, including one famous men’s Challenge Cup Final replay between Hull FC and Widnes in 1982.

Leeds Rhinos celebrate their Challenge Cup final win at Bolton in 2019 (ALLAN MCKENZIE/SWPIX)

“Now the Betfred Challenge Cup triple header will fall firmly into that category. The Women’s Challenge Cup Final is proving increasingly popular both with Rugby League supporters and with our broadcast partners and TV viewers, as we saw when the Women’s Final was shown live on BBC2 for the first time earlier this year.

“We are confident that more supporters than ever will want to be at Elland Road to watch the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup Final in 2022, and it will be a fitting stage for the brilliant athletes who are driving the development of Women’s Rugby League.

“With Elland Road also staging a Men’s Semi Final in the Rugby League World Cup next autumn, there’s so much to look forward to in 2022.”

The competition will have a fresh format in 2022, with 16 teams drawn into four seeded groups of four teams.

The 12 teams from the expanded Betfred Women’s Super League will be joined by three from the Championship – Hull FC, Oulton Raidettes and Widnes Vikings – as well as The Army.

The top four from the 2021 BWSL – Castleford Tigers, York City Knights, Leeds Rhinos and the double winners, St Helens – will be kept apart in the First Round.

The teams who finished fifth to eighth – Wigan Warriors, Huddersfield Giants, Featherstone Rovers and Warrington Wolves – will be in the second pool, again with one drawn in each group.

A third pool consists of Bradford Bulls, Wakefield Trinity and the two newcomers to the BWSL in 2022 - Barrow Raiders and Leigh Miners Rangers – with the four teams from outside the BWSL in the fourth pool.

The top two teams from each group will qualify for Quarter Finals, with the winners guaranteed home advantage.

The full schedule of matches will be published as soon as possible following the draw, with the Betfred Women’s Super League fixture list to be finalised soon – and tickets for the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup Final and Challenge Cup triple header at Elland Road to go on sale in the New Year.

Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup 2022

First Round seedings

Pool One – St Helens, Leeds Rhinos, York City Knights, Castleford Tigers

Pool Two – Wigan Warriors, Huddersfield Giants, Featherstone Rovers, Warrington Wolves

Pool Three – Bradford Bulls, Wakefield Trinity, Barrow Raiders, Leigh Miners Rangers

Pool Four – The Army, Hull FC, Oulton Raidettes, Widnes Vikings