Challenge Cup: Catalans to defend Coral-sponsored trophy in 2019

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Catalans beat Warrington to win first ever Challenge Cup

Challenge Cup holders Catalans Dragons will defend their trophy in 2019 after all as part of a new two-year, seven-figure sponsorship deal with Coral.

The French club, the first non-English side to win the trophy, had been considering their place after being asked to pay a £500,000 entry deposit.

But the Rugby Football League have reached an agreement "to end recent uncertainty about their participation".

The new deal will also cover the women's competition for the first time.

The men's final will be held at Wembley on Saturday 24 August.

The women's final will be held at the University of Bolton Stadium on Saturday 27 July, as part of a triple bill with the men's semi-finals.

"Bolton proved a popular venue for the sold-out double header last summer," said RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer, "so we're delighted to be going back for a triple header in 2019.

"This is a really significant day both for the Challenge Cup, and for women's rugby league.

"The Challenge Cup is one of the iconic competitions and trophies of British sport, with more than 120 years of history, and the famous Wembley final televised live to the nation and the world by the BBC.

"The Women's Challenge Cup may not have that history, but Coral's enthusiasm for it to be part of a joint sponsorship deal confirms our determination that it is set for a really exciting future."

Leeds Rhinos are the Women's Challenge Cup holders, having beaten Castleford 20-14 in the final at Warrington's Halliwell Jones Stadium.

Castleford Tigers & Leeds Rhinos
Leeds Rhinos won the Women's Challenge Cup last August

Catalans happy to stay in Cup

Catalans released a club statement to express how "delighted" they are to defend the 123-year-old trophy, rugby league's oldest competition.

"I'm really happy to announce that we will participate to this prestigious competition in 2019," said chairman Bernard Guasch.

"After weeks of open and honest discussions with Ralph Rimmer, we have indeed reached a compromise with the RFL."

As one of the teams to finish in the top eight of Super League in 2018, they will enter the competition at the sixth-round (round of 16) stage (11-12 May).

Three of the teams who finished in the bottom four, as well as promoted London Broncos, will enter in round five (13-14 April).

The Championship clubs - including relegated seven-times Challenge Cup winners Widnes - enter in round four (30-31 March), while League One sides come in at round three (9-10 March).

The competition begins this weekend, with 26 first-round ties, highlighted by Sunday's meeting in Cumbria between the oldest amateur club in the country, Millom, and Challenge Cup newcomers Red Star Belgrade.

The match will be streamed live on BBC Sport online platforms.

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