England captain Emily Rudge says the changes to the Women’s Super League for 2021 will benefit the national side.
With the addition of Warrington and Huddersfield to the competition for the new season, which starts this weekend, the increase to 10 teams has prompted a new format.
The 10 teams will play each other once, before the top four break away to play each other in six further rounds (home and away), with the top two teams then contesting the Grand Final.
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The bottom six after nine rounds will compete for the Super League Shield, playing each of the other teams once for five rounds of fixtures, before the top four progress to the Shield semi-finals.
The Grand Final and the Shield final will be played as a double header at Headingley on October 10.
One of the reasons behind the change was to provide more competitive games for the women’s elite players, to assist with the England development programme leading in to the 2021 World Cup.
St Helens back-rower Rudge, speaking when the changes were originally announced last year, said: “A few players were consulted, personally I wasn’t, but I’m really pleased with how it’s going to be split.
“I think it makes for more competitive games at the top of the table. I know last year was a great format and the Women’s Super League has been great for the past three years, but this change will definitely make it more competitive.
“We had a couple of games last year where we had an easy run out against some of the teams, whereas when we come up against the top teams like Castleford, Leeds, Wigan and a couple of others, those were the games that we really had to work hard to win.
“To get more of those games it’s only going to help us be a better side.”
Rudge’s St Helens side face Bradford on opening weekend, with newcomers Warrington taking on Wigan in a game that will be streamed live on Twitch.
Elsewhere, Castleford play Featherstone and champions Leeds entertain York – with all games in the first 10 rounds of the season to be split between Weetword Sports Ground in Leeds and Victoria Park in Warrington.