Local derby against Wakefield is first up for Castleford

First: Utility Super League
First: Utility Super League
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Castleford Tigers have been handed a tough start to the 2015 season with a local derby to open the campaign and matches against French outfit Catalans Dragons and 2014 Grand Final teams St Helens and Wigan Warriors to come in the first month.

Daryl Powell’s men will open the 2015 First Utility Super League campaign where they ended their regular season this year – at home to Wakefield Wildcats – with the game set to take place on Sunday, February 8.

The Tigers are then away to Catalans the following Saturday before they play champions St Helens away on Friday, February 27 with both games set to be shown live on Sky.

Castleford return home on Sunday, March 8 to play Grand Final runners-up Wigan then another Sky match quickly follows away to Huddersfield Giants on Thursday, March 12.

Cas have to wait until Friday, April 3 for their first chance of revenge against the team that beat them in this year’s Challenge Cup final when they meet Leeds Rhinos in a local derby at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle, once again to be televised live.

The return with Leeds at Headingley is another Sky choice and takes place on Thursday, June 11.

Wakefield will not be the Easter opponents this year as the return fixture between the two rivals is set for Sunday, July 19. A week later the regular season ends with the Tigers hosting Warrington Wolves.

What is being billed as the start of the most exciting era in the Rugby League since the sport switched to summer in 1996 will kick-off with six fixtures in a new-look First Utility Super League over the weekend of February 5-8 2015.

The sport’s flagship competition features 12 clubs from next season, when a league structure allowing for the return of promotion and relegation will ensure that every minute of every match in every competition should matter.

Super League General Manager Blake Solly said: “2015 is going to be a momentous year, not just for the First Utility Super League but every Rugby League supporter and there is already a huge sense of anticipation ahead of the new season.

“The league structure allows for changes that will bring unprecedented levels of excitement, drama and jeopardy to a game that has an unrivalled ability to deliver world class sporting action.

“Our very own ‘Ryder Cup of Rugby League’, the World Club Series, a fantastic trip to Newcastle for Magic Weekend, the Super 8s, Million Pound Game and, of course, the Grand Final all make for what I am sure will be a compelling year.”

Magic Weekend 2015 will take place at St James’ Park, Newcastle, where six round 16 fixtures will be played on Saturday May 30 and Sunday May 31. Full details of the Magic Weekend matches, including ticket availability will be announced on Monday, November 17.

The top eight Super League clubs from 2014 will enter the Challenge Cup at the sixth round stage over the weekend of May 17-18, one round later than in previous years; the clubs that finished last season in ninth to 12th places will enter the cup in Round five. The 2015 Challenge Cup final will be played at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, August 29.

After all 23 rounds of the regular season, Super League and the 12-team Kingstone Press Championship will split into three separate leagues, the Super 8s called Super League, the Qualifiers and Championship Shield.

The top eight of Super League will compete for a place in the Grand Final while the bottom four will join the top four from the Championship to make up the Qualifiers. After playing seven matches the top three Qualifiers will gain Super League status in 2016 with the final promotion spot decided by the Million Pound Game between teams four and five.

The pick of the action will once again be screened live on Sky Sports, who will televise around 100 Rugby League games in 2015, including regular Super League matches every Thursday and Friday evening.

Blake Solly said: “The importance of the exposure the sport gets through its partnership with Sky Sports cannot be overstated and I am delighted that our main broadcast partner will be capturing all the drama and excitement of Rugby League’s new era in 2015.

“I am also excited about Thursday Night Super League, which has been extremely successful in delivering a new and bigger television audience to the sport.

“By scheduling all Thursday night regular season matches immediately upon the release of fixtures and working with clubs to promote these matches, we are confident that Super League can increase Thursday night crowds as well.”

Full details of the new league structure, including an easy-to-understand video, can be found by visiting www.extraordinaryrugby.com

More on the fixtures in this week’s edition of the Pontefract & Castleford Express.