Reserves to return in 2022

Reserves team rugby will return in 2022, the Rugby Football League has announced.

The RFL has agreed with Super League and a number of Championship clubs for Reserves team rugby to return next season alongside an Under-18s Academy competition.

The plan is for the two competitions to be played on alternate weeks throughout the season, making a likely maximum of 16 rounds in each, to manage the demands on players and clubs. A play-off series will determine the champions in each grade.

All Super League clubs will run a Reserves team alongside Championship clubs Bradford, London Broncos and Newcastle.

RFL chief on-field officer Dave Rotheram said: “We believe this is a positive and important decision which has been made following extensive consultation with the Betfred Super League and Championship clubs.

“There had been a very positive response to the planned return of Reserves, and the resulting switch of the Academy to an Under-18s competition, for the 2020 season before Covid forced the cancellation of all grades of Rugby League below the Betfred Super League.

“It has remained impractical to reintroduce Reserves in 2021 given the ongoing complications arising from Covid, which has been a source of frustration to the RFL and most importantly the players who have been deprived of playing and development opportunities.

“That is why we were so keen to confirm the return of Reserves in 2022, and we congratulate the clubs for their willingness and enthusiasm to make this possible despite the considerable financial and logistical challenges.

“We have worked with the clubs to devise a structure which manages those challenges, for example by ensuring the Reserves and Under-18 Academy competitions will be run on alternate weeks, so that clubs only field one team beneath first grade on a weekly basis. This will also provide the appropriate level of challenge for our talented young players and playing opportunities for senior squad members.

“We believe the addition of play-offs will create an opportunity for the players to be tested in ‘knockout’ football and create wider interest.”


  1. Alternate weeks! How is that going to help the academy players develop? Once again rugby league displays its unique capacity to shoot itself in the foot at every given opportunity. Young players need to play in order to develop and a 16 game regular season falls way short of what is needed. We’re talking about young players whose playing experience has been decimated in the past 18 months, but instead of finding away to make up for that deficit they’re now going to be presented with a wholly inadequate fixture list.

    I’m all in favour of bringing reserve grade back but not if it’s at the expense of playing opportunities for young players. If both academy and reserves can’t be run with full fixture lists then it’s surely better to have a full academy programme and persist with the loan system for players who are leaving the academy but who are not yet ready for reserve grade.

    The fixture schedule as proposed is a slap in the face for young players who have already, and continue to, sacrifice so much time and effort for the game.

    • As a former player, rugby league is on very thin ice. They continue to ask everything of young players without giving anything back. Young players require support financially/physically and mentally. midweek and alternative week fixtures does not allow for these young players who sacrifice their time and livelihoods to be given the opportunity to flourish.

      The loan system doesnt work whether that be for 19/20 year old or for a player in need of minutes who maybe 20-25.

      Living paycheck to paycheck and chasing the next 12 month contract is what is killing rugby league.

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