The RFL has announced the fixtures schedule for the 2020 Reserves Rugby League and Academy Championship seasons.

Next year marks the return of Reserves rugby and the revision of the Academy Championship as an under-18s competition.

Castleford will face Leeds in the first match of the new Reserves League on Thursday 30 January, kicking off an opening round that features seven fixtures.

The line up for the new competition was confirmed earlier this year.

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The other five games in the opening round are due to be played on Saturday 1 February, including the four non-Super League clubs who have been included in both the Reserves League and the Academy Championship – London Broncos, Bradford Bulls and Newcastle Thunder and Widnes Vikings.

Each of the 14 teams will play 18 matches, with the last round of fixtures on the weekend of August 30 – and no play-offs, meaning the team finishing top will be crowned champions.

The Academy Championship kicks off a month later than the Reserves League, on Friday February 28, when Wigan – who won their third consecutive title with a Grand Final victory over St Helens in 2019 – launch their latest title defence at home to Hull KR, who will relaunch their own Academy team in 2020 having combined with Hull FC in the City of Hull Academy in recent seasons.

Castleford face Warrington, with Wakefield Trinity given a bye in the opening round, as the Academy Championship is a 13-team competition including all the English teams in the Betfred Super League bar Salford.

The Academy Championship also involves each team playing 18 fixtures, with the champions to be determined by a four-team play-off series culminating in a Grand Final in late September – with the last round of fixtures in the regular season on the weekend of September 11.

Dave Rotheram, the RFL’s Interim Chief On-Field Officer, said: “The return of the Reserves League has been widely welcomed since it was confirmed earlier this year, and it’s good to be able to combine the announcement of these fixtures with the programme for the 2020 Academy Championship.

“We see the return of the Reserves League plus the change in the Academy Championship to an Under-18 competition as two positive steps in the game’s talent and performance pathway, helping us to develop more high-quality players for Super League and England.

“In that regard, it’s important that we spread the net nationally, so it’s significant that the four non-Super League clubs who will field teams in both the Reserves League and the Academy Championship include London Broncos and Newcastle Thunder.”