Today saw the announcement of the 2018 Super 8s fixtures following the split between Super League and the Betfred Championship and, while all teams will have known who they were set to play and where, they didn’t know when they would face each other – until now.
Leeds Rhinos, backing up their 2017 Super League Grand Final win with a second stint in The Qualifiers in three years, open their campaign against Toulouse while closing it against the much fancied Toronto Wolfpack, both at Headingley. Interestingly, the Rhinos could face two trips to London within a week if they reach the Challenge Cup final with a trip to face the Broncos due the weekend before.
Hull KR have arguably copped three of the toughest teams – for various reasons – away with Toronto, Leeds and Toulouse all destinations for Tim Sheens’ men in their fourth Qualifiers experience in a row. They do, however, face the Wolfpack at possibly the best time; the weekend following their Canadian trip is that of the Challenge Cup final and, with it, a weekend off for all teams not involved. That would mean that Hull KR would have more than a week to prepare for their following fixture, negating any impact of jet lag or fatigue from their transatlantic excursion.
The fate of Toronto Wolfpack – fancied by many to earn promotion into Super League with a second consecutive promotion – may well come down to how well they travel back and forth between the UK and Canada. The Canadians, however, don’t have to travel to Toulouse as they host them in their fifth match, following matches against Hull KR and London Broncos either side of the Challenge Cup final as well as trips to Halifax – their opener – and Salford Red Devils. Indeed, the ill-discipline shown by the Wolfpack in their Challenge Cup clash earlier in the year against Warrington showed the club in a less-than-positive light and ruined any chance of the Canadians getting anything from a game they were very much in at half time. If they do, indeed, have designs on promotion, ensuring that they have their full complement of players on the pitch would be a huge bonus.
Salford Red Devils, revitalised by Jackson Hastings’ arrival at the club, start with a trip to Hull KR before hosting Widnes Vikings, a game which will be live on Sky Sports. The Vikings themselves have to travel to both Toronto and Toulouse and will be racking up the airmiles as they aim to hold onto their Super League status. London Broncos, aided by their second placed finish in the Championship, have the benefit of four home games and will face Halifax, Toulouse, Salford and the Rhinos in the capital, the latter of which will be their opening home match in the second round of fixtures. Their campaign culminates with a home match against ‘Fax, arguably the surprise package from the Championship who beat off competition from more-fancied rivals Leigh and Featherstone to secure fourth spot in the second tier. As a result, they have four away games including a trip to Toulouse but they avoided a trip to Canada, playing host to the Wolfpack in the first round of fixtures.
The Qualifiers full fixture list
Round 1 (9th-12th August)
Widnes Vikings v London Broncos
Hull KR v Salford Red Devils
Leeds Rhinos v Toulouse
Halifax RLFC v Toronto Wolfpack
Round 2 (18th-19th August)
Salford Red Devils v Widnes Vikings
Toulouse v Halifax RLFC
Toronto Wolfpack v Hull K R
London Broncos v Leeds Rhinos
Round 3 (1st-2nd September)
Leeds Rhinos v Hull KR
Toulouse v Widnes Vikings
Toronto Wolfpack v London Broncos
Halifax RLFC v Salford Red Devils
Round 4 (8th-9th September)
Salford Red Devils v Toronto Wolfpack
Hull K R v Halifax RLFC
London Broncos v Toulouse
Widnes Vikings v Leeds Rhinos
Round 5 (14th-16th September)
Leeds Rhinos v Salford Red Devils
Hull KR v London Broncos
Toronto Wolfpack v Toulouse
Widnes Vikings v Halifax RLFC
Round 6 (22nd-23rd September)
Toulouse v Hull KR
Toronto Wolfpack v Widnes Vikings
Halifax RLFC v Leeds Rhinos
London Broncos v Salford Red Devils
Round 7 (28th-30th September)
Leeds Rhinos v Toronto Wolfpack
Hull KR v Widnes Vikings
London Broncos v Halifax RLFC
Salford Red Devils v Toulouse