Women's Super League: Eight teams primed for kick-off on Sunday, 7 April

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Wigan Warriors confident women's Super League is in good health
Women's Super League
Starts: Sunday, 7 April Coverage: Challenge Cup final and Super League Grand Final to be broadcast on BBC Sport

Eight teams begin the pursuit of silverware in the Women's Super League on Sunday, 7 April, hoping to snatch the crown away from reigning champions Wigan Warriors.

It is a season which promises rich rewards for the successful, such as a Grand Final date at Leeds' Headingley Stadium on 13 October and a Challenge Cup final at the University of Bolton Stadium.

BBC Sport looks at what lies ahead for the women's game in 2019.

From seven to eight teams

Wakefield Trinity have been brought into the league for 2019, bringing extra competitive edge.

Champions Wigan, League Leaders' Shield winners Leeds, St Helens and Castleford made up the 2018 top four, with Bradford, Featherstone and York in the chasing pack.

"It'll be tougher this season," Wigan skipper Gemma Walsh told BBC Sport. "We've got the extra team in Wakefield, so I think it'll be tougher. Teams have recruited well so I think it will be more evenly matched.

"I do expect last year's top four to be challenging but the other teams have all improved.

"At Wigan, we just want to improve on what we did last season. We finished fourth in the table last year and we'd like to go on and do well in the Challenge Cup."

Leeds will be without hooker Lois Forsell for the whole season after complications with a knee injury, but she expects plenty of sides to fancy being in the hunt for the big prize.

"I think it is pretty open," Forsell said. "We've seen movement of players between teams, we stunned a few people last year in our first season, Wigan have been working hard, Saints have Jodie Cunningham back from injury, Bradford have had a full pre-season and Castleford have recruited really well."

Rugby league - women's style

The third season of the Women's Super League comes on the back of a breakout campaign for the game, in which the league expanded and a Woman of Steel in Georgia Roche was crowned.

One of the core aims for the Rugby Football League is to continue the development of players going forward, with its '21 for 21' campaign hoping to get 21,000 women and girls playing the sport by the time the 2021 World Cup comes around.

St Helens full-back Cunningham is a big believer that there is a place in rugby league for all girls and women, whoever they are.

"No one plays alike, and that's in every aspect," Cunningham said.

"It's in personality, skill, body, the biggest girls to the smallest girls, the tallest to the shortest, it doesn't matter. It's that body confidence growing up and self-esteem it gives you.

"It's a really welcoming environment for girls to come in to."

Opening weekend fixtures

The Women's Super League kicks off with a derby between Wigan and Saints at Robin Park, Wigan, a genuine rivalry between two traditional giants of the game.

Meanwhile, Wakefield's bow comes against Leeds, Bradford take on Featherstone and York host Castleford.

"I'm so excited. We played Wigan three times last year and I didn't get the chance to play," Cunningham said. "These are the games you want to play in.

"When you're a kid and you see the blokes playing Wigan-Saints derbies, those are the games you think 'I wish I could play in that', so it's a dream come true."

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