Daily Digest: Rugby league sets first competitive fixture dates since 2019

Leeds Rhinos

In today’s news: Rugby league has confirmed its return to competitive fixtures, Manchester City ease their way into the Champions League quarter-finals and cycling fans hit back at astronomical gender pay gap.

Super League 2021 season start date confirmed

Women’s rugby is finally set to make its return to competitive action after being put on hold due to Covid-19 guidelines. The league has been on hiatus since Leeds Rhinos beat Castleford Tigers 20-12 in the Grand Final back in October 2019. However, now the sport has officially been granted ‘elite’ status, the nod has been given for the Super League to recommence on April 18.

The Challenge Cup will also return this year and it’ll be Leeds who will look to defend this title as well.

The ten teams set to feature in the 2021 season will play each other once with the aim of finishing within the top four. From there, the Grand Final play-offs will get underway, as well as the sides competing for a top six spot to partake in the Shield, which will also have a Grand Final of its own.

The opening round of fixtures will consist of: Bradford Bulls vs St Helens, Wigan Warriors vs Warrington Wolves, Castleford Tigers vs Featherstone Rovers and Leeds Rhinos vs York City Knights.

Man City breeze into Champions League knockouts

Manchester City have secured their spot in this season’s Champions League quarter-finals after dismantling Fiorentina. The Round of 16 stage saw the Sky Blues register an 8-0 aggregate win after finishing the job in Florence this afternoon.

A brace each for Ellen White and Sam Mewis as well as a penalty from Caroline Weir put any glimmer of hope for Fiorentina out of the picture. The blistering performance added to the 3-0 advantage City set at the Academy Stadium prior to their trip to Italy.

Manchester City Women

Gareth Taylor heavily rotated his squad for the reverse fixture at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. Steph Houghton and Lucy Bronze were left out of the match day lineup, which saw White named as captain for the day. Rose Lavelle also made the cut as she started in midfield alongside Weir and Keira Walsh.

City secure their spot in the quarter-finals alongside Chelsea, who also cruised to a win over Atletico Madrid.

Cycling fans take action over 600% gender pay gap

Furious cycling fans have opted to take matters into their own hands as a staggering 600% pay gap in prize monies was recently brought to light. 

Ahead of last weekend’s Strade Bianche, supporters banded together to crowdfund a new and improved prize pot for the top five finishers in the female peloton. Their efforts raised more than €26,000 (£23,000), which significantly improves the initial €6,200 (£5,200) on offer.

At Omloop Het Nieuwsblad earlier in the month, Davide Ballerini pocketed €16,000 (£13,600) in winnings, whilst world champion Anna van der Breggen won just €930 (£795) for her efforts. This 600% margin came to Lizzy Banks’ attention, who slammed the pay gap and admitted that it feels like female cyclists are “fighting a losing battle”.

Heather Fisher opens up on alopecia battle

England rugby international Heather Fisher has opened up on the struggles she faces whilst living with alopecia. The Commonwealth Games bronze medalist admits that she often has to “explain herself” when confronted by others about her gender.

Fisher lost her hair just before the 2010 World Cup, where she represented England for the first time. The 36-year-old is striving to raise awareness around alopecia and help normalise positive conversations being had around the condition.

Heather Fisher

The rugby star reveals that she is often made to feel “on edge” due to other people’s reactions to her loss of hair. The frequency of negative comments and questions have made her come to expect it whenever she travels or trains with the England team.

“More females who are slightly ‘different’ or unique should be on the map, people should be hearing their stories because this is life, this is how it is,” Fisher said.

Rachael Burford named Head of Women’s Rugby

The governing body of International Rugby Players has appointed Rachael Burford as Head of Women’s Rugby. The Harlequins captain takes on the role after receiving the International Rugby Players Special Merit award back in 2017 for her work for the player’s movement.

Burford has represented England at four Rugby World Cups and helped guide them to victory in 2014. The 34-year-old has expressed her excitement over taking on this new role and has stressed how important it is to keep championing the women’s sport.

“Women’s rugby is still not where it needs to be and I hope to represent the voice of women’s players to ensure that promises and words are followed up with actions,” Burford said.

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