The excitement is well and truly building as supporters prepare to return to stadiums.
Along with the rest of British sport, Super League was halted in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and, since resuming five months later, all matches in England have been played behind closed doors, whilst it has been 220 days since Catalans hosted Hull KR in France.
With restrictions eased from Monday as part of Government plans to gradually bring the country out of lockdown, all but one of the six round six fixtures have been pushed back from the weekend to enable clubs to play in front of limited crowds.
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The new regulations allow for crowds at small outdoor venues of up to 4,000 or 50% of capacity while up to 10,000 fans or 25% of capacity are being permitted at larger outdoor venues.
So there will be 4,000 at St Helens and Warrington for the visits of Salford and Huddersfield respectively, while there will be around 2,000 see Leigh host Wigan.
— Warrington Wolves (@WarringtonRLFC) May 16, 2021
Hull are gearing up for a 5,500-strong crowd – made up of 5,000 members and 500 corporate guests and partners – for the game against Catalans Dragons.
The Black and Whites can expect a rapturous reception following their Challenge Cup win over Wigan but coach Brett Hodgson is urging his players not to lose their focus.
Hodgson said: “We’ve had that conversation today, that fans won’t win us the game. They will help if we’re good enough to be in the fight. I’m looking forward to giving them something to cheer.”
🖤 An emotional night, 431 days in the making.
🏠 Tomorrow, we welcome you 𝐡𝐨𝐦𝐞…
— Hull FC (@hullfcofficial) May 16, 2021
It will be Hodgson’s first match in front of spectators as a head coach while St Helens coach Kristian Woolf, now in his second season in Super League, has experienced just three home games in front of fans.
Woolf said: “Obviously we’ve missed the fans. I can’t wait for them to create that atmosphere.
“It’s part of what makes footy really enjoyable for the players. They’ve done an outstanding job, the way they’ve gone about their business, but at the end of the day they want to do it in front of our fans and their families.”
— St.Helens R.F.C. (@Saints1890) May 16, 2021
Castleford have sold out their 3,600 tickets for their home game against Hull KR and Daryl Powell says the return of fans is not before time.
He said: “It hasn’t been great, there isn’t much soul with a stadium with no-one in.
“I think we’ve taken fans for granted over the years but I don’t think we’ll ever do that again.”