Rugby League

Rugby League: Military Teams Ruled Out Of 2021 Challenge Cup

The Navy, Army and RAF usually enter the tournament at the first round but will not be able to this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Armed Forces rugby league teams will not be playing in the 2021 Challenge Cup.

A decision by the Rugby Football League to play this year's tournament with only professional teams due to the coronavirus pandemic has meant the Navy, Army and RAF sides will miss out.

The Army's history-making run to the third round last year was a highlight of the military sporting calendar.

UK Armed Forces Rugby League Chief Operating Officer, Squadron Leader Damian Clayton, said: "We’re very, very fortunate and privileged to be included in the competition, so it is very, very disappointing.

"The return-to-play protocols from the national governing body, they've been working hard behind the scenes – they just weren’t going to be able to get it across the line.

"Obviously with the broadcasters, the date for the final has to be set now.

"So the only way to do it from the feedback I got was for just the professional teams to be involved this year only."

The Army's victory over Skirlaugh in last year's second round sparked scenes of wild celebration in the dressing room.

It is not just the military's presence in the Challenge Cup that has been affected this year.

The plan for a Forces Rugby League World Cup to run alongside the major men's and women's tournaments has also been postponed.

Sqn Ldr Clayton said: "To have the rug pulled from under us because of the unknown of the pandemic really and the inability of the other festival participants to travel, or confirm their travel, across the UK, is very, very disappointing because a lot of work had gone into that.

"A World Cup, as is the Challenge Cup, is a massive occasion and for our players, it is a real showcase event for them to get out in the shop front window."

The military teams still hope the Inter Services can be played in August but a decision on that will be taken later in the year.