January start in Super League as Wigan begin defence against St Helens

Wigan lift the Super League trophy after winning the 2018 Grand Final
Wigan lift the Super League trophy after winning the 2018 Grand Final

Wigan will begin the defence of their Betfred Super League title in 2019 with a derby against St Helens on the last day of January.

The fixture, on Thursday, January 31, is designed to provided a blockbusting opening as it pits the defending champions with the 2019 title favourites.

It will not quite be the earliest start to a Super League season as Leeds began their title defence in 2010 against Crusaders in the snow of Wrexham on January 29.

There will be another derby the following day, with Hull KR hosting Hull FC at KCOM Craven Park, while Sky will televise a third opening-round match on the Saturday, when Warrington host Leeds.

Also on the opening Friday, Castleford will host Catalans Dragons and Salford will visit Huddersfield.

London Broncos will mark their return to Super League after a four-year absence with a home game against Wakefield in the only game on the Sunday

The 12 teams will play each other twice and six other teams a third time following the introduction of 'loop' fixtures, introduced to provide three additional home games following the scrapping of the Super 8s. The fixtures will be based on final positions in the 2018 table.

The 2019 Dacia Magic Weekend will be played on the second Bank Holiday weekend in May, with the fixtures and venue set to be confirmed next week. Anfield is being tipped to host the event for the first time.

Super League has organised a mid-season break on the first weekend of June for an international programme, with England expected to travel to France, and the Grand Final will be held at Old Trafford on Saturday, October 12,

Super League chief executive Robert Elstone said: "The 2019 season will mark a change of direction for the Super League and the start of exciting new beginnings.

"We want our fans to be really excited about that first weekend and how better to do that than with a Saints-Wigan derby, pitting the champions against their local rivals who were also last year's League Leaders? And then to follow it up with a Hull derby?

"We're equally excited about the extra Saturday games which our broadcast partners at Sky Sports are showing in the early stages of the season, allowing the drama of the opening round of matches to unfold throughout the weekend.

"Throw in the World Club Challenge between Wigan Warriors and the Sydney Roosters, the unique appeal and challenge of Super League's Easter weekend - and of course the season builds to a real climax with the battle for places in the Top Five Play-Offs, building to the Betfred Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford."

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