Super League: St Helens start title defence against Catalan Dragons

James Roby, Nathan Brown and Paul Wellens hold the Super League trophy
James Roby, Nathan Brown and Paul Wellens hold the Super League trophy - Saints fifth summer era win

Grand Final winners St Helens will start the 2015 Super League season with a home game against Catalan Dragons.

The two sides will meet on Friday, 6 February, 24 hours after runners-up Wigan Warriors travel to Widnes in their opening fixture of the campaign.

The opening weekend sees two Yorkshire derbies with Castleford v Wakefield and Huddersfield Giants at home to Hull FC.

Warrington play host Salford Red Devils, with Hull KR meeting Leeds Rhinos at the KC Lightstream Stadium.

Wigan forward Ben Flower will miss his side's first re-match with St Helens on Good Friday as he serves a six-month ban, the longest in Super League history, for punching Lance Hohaia during the Grand Final.

The earliest Flower could return to action would be Wigan's home game against Warrington on 23 April.

Hohaia, however, will be free for Saints' game against Catalan as he will serve his one-game ban in pre-season for striking Flower with his forearm in the Grand Final.

Opening Super League fixtures (5-8 February 2015)
Thursday, 5 February: Widnes Vikings v Wigan Warriors
Friday, 6 February: St Helens v Catalan Dragons
Sunday, 8 February: Castleford Tigers v Wakefield Trinity Wildcats
Sunday, 8 February: Huddersfield Giants v Hull FC
Sunday, 8 February: Hull KR v Leeds Rhinos
Sunday, 8 February: Warrington Wolves v Salford Red Devils

Only 12 sides will be involved in the first phase of Super League, with Bradford Bulls and London Broncos relegated to the Championship as part of the game's revamped structure.

But there will be a break after the opening two rounds of games while St Helens, who will name their new head coach on Monday, Wigan and Warrington compete against the top Australian sides in the new World Club Series.

Magic Weekend will take place on 30-31 May with all 12 sides playing at St James' Park in Newcastle.

Super League General manager Blake Solly has predicted a "momentous year" in 2015, with "unprecedented levels of excitement, drama and jeopardy" because of the new structure.

It will see Super League and Championship play 23 games in two divisions of 12 and then be split into three pools of eight.

The top Super Eights group will then play seven further games, with the top four at that stage progressing to contest places in the Grand Final.

Four further top-flight clubs for the 2016 season will come from the middle qualifiers pool.

The Super Eights will begin on 8-9 August, with the season reaching its climax in the first two weekends of October.

The Super League semi-finals, Championship Shield final and so-called million-pound match between the fourth and fifth teams in the middle Super Eight group will decide the final promotion place, on 3-4 October, with the Grand Final at Old Trafford on 10 October.

Next season's Challenge Cup, meanwhile, will have byes to the sixth round for the top eight sides from Super League 2014, and the final will be played at Wembley on 29 August.

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