Super League’s play-offs will commence next week in an expanded top-six format after more positive coronavirus tests at clubs forced a change to the plans previously put in place.
The regular season had been due to conclude on Friday, November 13, with the table decided via points percentage. However, matters were complicated by Castleford Tigers and Hull Kingston Rovers both being forced to cancel matches after positive Covid-19 tests in both camps left them short of players – in Rovers’ case, forcing them to conclude their season early.
The Super League board have now taken the decision to expand the play-offs to the top six and remove the qualification that a team has to have played a minimum of 15 matches to take part, which would have ruled out fourth-placed Catalans Dragons.
The decision to bring forward the end of the regular season means the League Leaders’ Shield will be decided on Friday evening when Wigan Warriors play Huddersfield Giants, and Super League chief commercial officer Rhodri Jones laid out the rationale behind the change of plans.
“We believe this revised structure provides the best and fairest way to ensure the two most deserving teams reach the Grand Final,” Jones said.
“I’m sure everyone will be excited about five huge games, set to deliver an even more exciting climax to the 2020 season.”
The regular season will now conclude on Friday evening in a double-header at Emerald Headingley, live on Sky Sports, with the match between Wakefield Trinity and Salford Red Devils kicking off at 5.30pm followed by Wigan’s clash with Huddersfield at 7.45pm after being pushed back 24 hours.
Super League chief commercial officer Rhodri Jones
Victory for the Warriors would see them claim the League Leaders’ Shield for the first time since 2012, while defeat would see St Helens finish top of the table for the third year running on points difference percentage.
Saints had been due to travel to Perpignan to play Catalans on Thursday, but that match has now been cancelled with both teams now certain of a play-off place, and due to concerns over international travel with England set to enter stricter national measures on the same day.
The new play-off format will see the top two automatically seeded through to the semi-finals, to be played on November 19 and 20, with third place playing sixth on November 12 and fourth taking on fifth the following day for the other two semi-final spots.
Meanwhile, whichever of Huddersfield or Salford finishes seventh will remain on standby and the five teams at the bottom of the table after this week will have their remaining fixtures struck out with their current win percentages remaining in place.
“The revised format to the play-off schedule provides fans and Sky Sports with an extended series of exciting knockout matches to finish the season,” Jones said.
“Nothing has been predictable in this 2020 season and we hope players, supporters and the media will appreciate why we have made this change.”
Friday, 6 November (both at Emerald Headingley): 5.30pm – Wakefield Trinity vs Salford Red Devils; 7.45pm – Wigan Warriors vs Huddersfield Giants.
Thursday, November 12 (Venue TBC): 7.45pm – Play-offs Round 1 (Third vs sixth).
Friday, November 13 (Venue TBC): 7.45pm – Play-offs Round 1 (Fourth vs fifth).
Thursday, November 19 (Venue of first): Semi-finals (First vs lowest-placed play-off winner).
Friday, November 20 (Venue of second): Semi-finals (Second vs highest-placed play-off winner).
Friday 27, November (KCOM Stadium): Super League Grand Final.
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