Reigning Northern Rail 9s champions Blackpool Panthers will face a testing round of group games when they defend their title at Fylde Rugby Club’s Memorial Ground on Saturday July 17.
The Panthers, who won the inaugural tournament in 2009, will take on fellow Co-operative Championship One high flyers Hunslet Hawks along with Halifax and Leigh Centurions at the all-day event, which features 18 England-based Championships clubs.
Other intriguing pool duels include Championship leaders Featherstone taking on last season’s Grand Final winners Barrow and an all-Cumbrian clash between Workington and Whitehaven.
The pools are as follows:
Pool 1: Dewsbury Rams, Rochdale Hornets, Swinton Lions, Gateshead Thunder.
Pool 2: Featherstone Rovers, Barrow Raiders, Oldham, Sheffield Eagles.
Pool 3: Keighley Cougars, Workington Town, York City Knights, Whitehaven.
Pool 4: Doncaster, Blackpool Panthers, London Skolars.
Pool 5: Halifax, Hunslet Hawks, Leigh Centurions.
Teams in Pools 1, 2 and 3 will each play three matches against their rivals in the same pool. The teams in Pools 4 will play three matches against the teams in Pool 5, who will play matches against each of the teams in Pool 4.
The top four teams in a composite league table based on the results from all five pools will then progress to the semi-final stage. All matches will last nine minutes each way.
The winners of the Northern Rail 9s will go on to represent The Co-operative Championships clubs at the Carnegie Floodlit 9s at the Headingley Carnegie Stadium in August.
The Northern Rail 9s is supported by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) which has worked with the RFL and Northern Rail to bring the event to Blackpool.
Sheldon Phillips, Head of Regional Major Events at the NWDA, said: “The Northern Rail 9s is now in its second year and is a great opportunity for Rugby League fans across the country to not only attend the event but also to enjoy a family weekend in Blackpool, especially with the Northern Rail Cup Final also being held on the Sunday.
“Blackpool is a fantastic visitor destination and our support for the 9s complements our wider work to support the town’s tourism offer.”
Tickets, priced at £9 (£5 concessions), can be purchased on the day or in advance from the RFL Ticket Office on 0844 8561113. Supporters purchasing tickets for the Northern Rail 9s will be given a promotional code to secure a discount for the Northern Rail Cup Final.