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Super League 2020 preview

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When 2020 season of the Betfred Super League begins on 30th January, history will be made. Of course, we all know that Toronto will be making their debut in the northern hemisphere's top league and that Sonny Bill Williams will be taking to the field, but there's every chance this season will be the last to cover eight months if loop fixtures are removed, and there's also chance that this will be the final year with just one French team in the top flight because Toulouse look strong enough to win promotion from the Championship this term. What else makes this year significant?

Sky Sports

Sky know how important they are to the game. Rather than working with the sport to promote it, they appear to operate as a silent partner most of the time. While it's true that all changes to the competition format must be ratified by Sky while under contract to the broadcaster, they don't seem to use that veto to help shape the league. What was their response to loop fixtures? Perhaps they were happy with the idea that some big club clashes could be broadcast three times a year. This year things will be different. For one, they won't be able to broadcast as many games per week thanks to the collapse of the TV deal in France. Catalan Dragons will go from the most broadcast club in Super League to the least now that their 14 home games won't be broadcast in their native country or the UK. Will the sport be able to establish itself outside of the traditional Thursday night TV slot? In seems that Sky is happier broadcasting Championship football or anything else celebrating the round-ball sport than rugby on Friday nights. What are the chances of every matching being televised live when the next broadcast deal arrives when the sport's broadcaster constantly undermines coverage?

Toronto

When the Canadian club signed Sonny Bill Williams, the rugby watching world was excited, but there seems little chance of Toronto lifting silverware this year. The squad assembled to help the New Zealander is good but a little lopsided. They have some experienced Super League players along with a collection of Championship calibre talent, but they don't have enough players. They've reached the salary cap with just 23 players, and they won't compete in the revived reserves league because they don't have any players outside the 23-man first team. They don't have academy players either, so there's a real lack of depth and a major problem with the club. No wonder some of their rivals think they're a flash in the pan. Will the Toronto revolution fade away as quickly as it arrived or is the club here to stay? This season will go some way to answering that question.

Challenge Cup

Will 2020 be the year in which the Challenge Cup reclaims its glory? That's the hope of the RFL who have moved their showpiece final to July. Avoiding school holidays and the football season will help the competition's popularity, but more changes to the venerable cup competition might hurt it in the long run, particularly if it's changed again in 2021. A rumoured move to June is possible, but that might depend on who's broadcasting the cup. This year, the BBC extended their deal for a further year which doesn't bode well for the sport. The last deal covered five years. Why did the RFL agree to that rather than push for a multiyear agreement?

Who will win Super League?

Toronto winning the Super League seems unlikely. They might find themselves plagued with injuries and battling for survival. It's more likely that St Helens, Wigan or Warrington will win the title. What about last year's underdogs Salford? They've lost the nucleus of the side that surprised everyone so there's little chance of consecutive appearances in the playoffs. Catalan Dragons look the most likely side to surprise this year. With James Maloney added to the back line and the Tomkins brothers united once again, the French side is the most likely to pull off a playoff surprise.

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