Challenge Cup Round Six TV coverage explained as broadcasters consider scheduling

Aaron Bower
Paul Wellens, BBC Sport

With the draw for Round Six of the Challenge Cup now made and the 16 remaining teams all looking ahead at a possible run to Wembley, attention is already turning to which games may be televised.

There are some blockbuster ties which could easily be televised for different reasons. Leeds versus St Helens is a heavyweight clash and the standout pick in that regard, while there are other ties that have fascinating subplots. Craig Lingard’s return to Batley with Castleford is one such example, as is defending holders Leigh facing Championship side Featherstone.

That’s without mentioning the rematch of the 1998 final too, as world champions Wigan Warriors take on Sheffield Eagles. The suggestion has been that only one game will be broadcast in the last 16, following speculation immediately after the draw that the BBC had a slot reserved for a Sunday afternoon game. But it isn’t quite that straightforward, Love Rugby League has been told.

The pick – or picks – for the next round will be determined today (Tuesday), but it is not as simple as picking one game for the iPlayer on the Sunday. The main problem with that is if the BBC’s online pick is to be Sunday afternoon, it rules three-quarters of the games out straight away.

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With Easter the following week and a number of big games on Thursday and Friday, the six teams – Castleford, Leeds, Hull FC, Hull KR, Wigan and St Helens – would simply be unable to play on Sunday on the BBC due to a short turnaround. That would only leave Halifax versus Catalans and Leigh versus Featherstone as possible picks. Which seems unlikely.

What is instead more likely is the Player pick moves to a Saturday or even a Friday evening, which would put Leeds Rhinos versus St Helens in pole position to get selected. The BBC would likely lean towards a clash of two heavyweights rather than a possible giant killing.

But that doesn’t mean every other team will be away from broadcast. There are other options for the Rugby Football League and RL Commercial to consider: including The Sportsman, who showed Featherstone’s dramatic victory over Wakefield on Sunday. There is even the prospect of SuperLeague+ showing a Challenge Cup game, too.

But in short: the notion that it is one game on the BBC on Sunday and nothing else is, at this stage, wide of the mark. All options are being kept open.

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