Super League’s Project Restart kicks off on Sunday with the sport changed dramatically since lockdown.
In a Headingley doubleheader and after a break of 20 weeks, Catalans Dragons take on St Helens before Huddersfield face Leeds.
There will be no scrums, to reduce the risk of Covid-19, no fans and no Toronto Wolfpack, after the Canadians withdrew from the competition.
The ‘six again’ rule, in which referees can award another six tackles rather than a penalty if a team use cynical methods to slow an attack, will be in place for the first time here after its introduction in Australia’s NRL. Toronto’s record has been expunged and the Challenge Cup has been redrawn after a number of clubs pulled out.
Players at clubs across Super League have agreed to salary reductions, with the loss of gate receipts continuing to have an impact.
In May, following pleas for help and claims dozens of clubs could cease to exist, a £16million Government bailout was agreed, with support given to grass-roots rugby as well as to the professional game.
However, the two leagues below Super League will not resume this season. On the weekend of rugby league’s restart, the return of James Graham is eagerly awaited. The 34-year-old forward is set to make his second St Helens ‘debut’ almost nine years since bowing out in a 2011 Grand Final defeat. Graham spent almost a decade in the NRL.
Headingley stages the first two rounds of fixtures with the conclusion to the campaign set for November.