Following the announcement that the 2020 Coral Challenge Cup Final will be postponed from its scheduled Wembley date of July 18, the RFL today confirms the cancellation of the Warners Champion Schools competitions.
The majority of the 10 competitions which are thought to make the Champion Schools the biggest knockout competition in world Rugby League – boys and girls from Year 7 to Year 11 inclusive – had reached the regional finals stage when Rugby League activity was suspended as a result of the national lockdown in March.
Two sets of regional finals had been played – for boys in the North East, and London and the South East – but the Yorkshire, North West and Cumbria finals were all postponed.
Given the ongoing uncertainty over when senior schools will reopen, as well as the further uncertainty over the resumption of any form of junior Rugby League, the RFL has reluctantly concluded that while playing the outstanding regional finals may be possible, it will not be practical to stage the national finals days which are usually held in the summer term.
That also means a break in one of the game’s more enduring and popular traditions, as the Year 7 Boys’ Final will not be played at Wembley – where the Steven Mullaney Memorial Match has become established as the curtain-raiser to the Challenge Cup Final since it was renamed in memory of the youngster who scored a superb individual try for Wakefield Schools against their St Helens counterparts in 1986.
Ralph Rimmer, the chief executive of the Rugby Football League, said: “While we realise there will be many higher-profile sporting fixtures and competitions that are affected by the current situation, this is an especially sad cancellation for us to announce.
“The Warners Champion Schools competitions give so much enjoyment to so many youngsters, as a result of a huge amount of work and organisation that is put in by teachers, parents and our RFL staff – with generous financial support from Gary Warner over the last two years.
“The National Finals Days have become established at Victoria Park in Warrington over the last couple of summers, and the Steven Mullaney Memorial Match is a special part of Challenge Cup Final day at Wembley.
“Unfortunately, the unique circumstances of 2020 mean it won’t be possible for the competitions to be completed. We will do all we can to play more of the regional finals, and hopefully the majority of the boys and girls who have been involved in this year’s matches will join us in looking forward to making the tournament even bigger and better in 2021.
“Congratulations to the winners of those regional finals that have been played – and to everyone who took part in the Warners Champion Schools of 2020.”
The RFL will this week unveil the latest initiative to keep youngsters active and involved in Rugby League while normal fixtures are suspended, by launching Virtual Clubs.
This follows the popular #SkillToPlay and #FitToPlay campaigns launched early in the Lockdown, and there are many more resources available for coaches, parents and teachers on the RFL’s digital learning platform, Our Learning Zone.
Sign up and join the ‘Education Resources’ group for free pupil activities such as Junior Match Official and Mental Fitness courses.
Warners Champion Schools 2020 – regional winners
North East Boys
Y7 –Hexham Middle School beat Egglescliffe School
Y8 – Seaton Sluice Middle School beat Belmont School
Y9 – Whitley Bay High School beat Churchill Community College
Y10 – Whitburn C of E Academy drew with Egglescliffe School
Y11 – Whitburn C of E Academy beat Whitley Bay High School
London and South East Regional Finals (Boys) PLAYED
Y7 – Grey Court beat John Fisher
Y8 – Howard Of Effingham beat Grey Court
Y9 – Grey Court beat Howard Of Effingham
Y10 – Howard Of Effingham beat Longdean
Y11 – Howard Of Effingham beat St Birinus