Women's Super League: Elite rugby league competition will return on 18 April
Last updated on .From the section Rugby League
The 2021 Women's Super League campaign will begin on 18 April, the first competitive action since Leeds won the Grand Final in October 2019.
Following the decision to grant elite status and a return to training, all 10 teams can now prepare for the start date in less than six weeks.
The outbreak of Covid-19 led to the cancellation of the 2020 season in full without a single game played.
In addition, the Challenge Cup will also return in 2021 after a hiatus.
Preliminary round ties involving Huddersfield Giants, Warrington Wolves, York City Knights and Wakefield Trinity, the four newest clubs, are scheduled for Sunday, 25 April.
In the Super League, reigning champions Leeds Rhinos, who beat Castleford Tigers in both finals during 2019, are joined again by Wigan Warriors, St Helens, Wakefield Trinity, Bradford Bulls, Featherstone Rovers and York City Knights.
Huddersfield Giants and Warrington Wolves were due to join last season but will now feature in a new-10 team league.
In addition, England's 2021 World Cup preparations will be aided by two Origin fixtures, the squads drawn from Yorkshire and Lancashire players, to provide competition and game-time for those international squad members.
"It has been a long wait, but this will be worth waiting for," general manager Thomas Brindle said. "This year - 2021 - is such a huge year for women's rugby league in this country, with a home World Cup to anticipate, that it's essential for the Women's Super League to resume.
"The players, clubs and foundations have worked extremely hard to get us to this point, and we appreciate the continued support of Department of Culture, Media and Sport and Sport England."
Structure for 2021 - how will the league work?
With an anticipated divide in quality from the newer clubs through to the more-established names, the season is split into two parts.
All 10 teams will play once in behind-closed-doors fixtures, upon which the league will divide into a top-four play-off for the regular Grand Final and a six-team Shield competition with its own Grand Final.
The full fixture schedule for the league and cup, plus the dates for the Grand Final matches, are to be confirmed.
Opening round games:
Bradford Bulls v St Helens, Wigan Warriors v Warrington Wolves (Victoria Park, Warrington)
Castleford Tigers v Featherstone Rovers, Leeds Rhinos v York City Knights (Weetwood, Leeds).