Easter schedule under review

  • Last Updated: April 15 2014, 14:00 BST

The tradition is as old as the game itself, but the Easter double-header could become extinct this time next week.

Hull KR were thumped 84-6 by Wigan last Easter
Hull KR were thumped 84-6 by Wigan last Easter

The Rugby Football League's executive has begun a root-and-branch review of the domestic schedule in light of the planned re-organisation in 2015, when the Super League and the Championship are split into three divisions of eight in late summer.

Under particular scrutiny is the structure of the Challenge Cup and its positioning in the calendar, while officials will also consider the controversial scrapping of the hectic league schedule over Easter, when clubs play twice in four or five days.

That will be sweet music to the ears of the Australian coaches in Super League, who have been consistent in their condemnation of the current system, which they argue jeopardises player welfare and dilutes the quality of matches.

The traditionalists' argument is that players have always backed up over Easter - and did the same over Christmas before the switch to summer - without any ill-effects.

They also point to bumper Good Friday and Easter Monday attendances, which clubs have come to rely on.

Yet crowds do not seem to turn out for the second game in anything like the numbers they used to, perhaps anticipating a lowering of the standard as fatigue catches up with those players unfortunate not to get a rest.

The bigger clubs, with strength in depth, can cope with the rigours of quickfire fixtures, but the result is quite often the lopsided scorelines that have occurred more frequently in recent years.

An obvious example came last Easter Monday with Wigan's 84-6 mauling of Hull KR, whose epic derby victory over Hull FC three days earlier had clearly taken a massive mental and physical toll.

The Robins have also drawn the short straw this year, with Thursday's derby followed by a trip to the south of France to take on Catalan Dragons on Easter Monday.

Leeds addressed that particular problem last year by chartering their own plane to take them in and out of Perpignan on the same day.

While the French club also have a charter flight to get them home straight after their match in London, Hull KR's players will have little time to recover from their derby tussle before following them to France on an eight-hour journey.

"I am sure everyone is sick of me wingeing about it but the short turn-around is made worse by us having to travel," the Robins' Australian coach Craig Sandercock said.

"If we were like Leeds and had an airport close by or we could charter a flight, it wouldn't be so bad.

"But we have to travel two and a half hours to get to an airport and, because we'd have to leave Hull at 4am to get the 9am flight from Liverpool - and the players wouldn't get any sleep the day before the game - we're forced to set off on Saturday.

"Some people under-estimate how hard it is to do that straight after a game. It would have been preferable not to spend seven or eight hours travel time to play.

"It takes a massive toll on the body to do that so it's going to be tough. The logistical problems are an absolute nightmare."

By his own admission, Sandercock has established a reputation for being a constant critic of British rugby league, but it is hard not to feel sympathy on this occasion for him.

Interestingly, the Championship has abandoned its Easter Monday fixtures this year and that could be the signal for Super League to follow suit.