KEIGHLEY Cougars will start their 1895 Cup journey on the weekend of April 18/19 in the first round with seven other clubs.

But they will face at least one midweek tie if they make it through that.

They will be joined in round one by four other clubs from League One, in Barrow Raiders, Doncaster, Newcastle Thunder and Rochdale Hornets.

National Conference League sides West Hull, York Acorn and Underbank Rangers, who are all still in the Challenge Cup, will also be in the first round draw, which will be held in Cumbria on March 18.

All eight enter the cup in the knowledge that four wins would secure a trip to Wembley on Saturday, July 18.

But the Rugby Football League (RFL) have confirmed that the second round games, which is where Bradford Bulls and 11 other Championship sides will join, and the quarter-finals will take place in midweek.

The second round draw will be held on March 18, with the eight second round ties to be played in the week starting April 27.

The quarter-finals will be played in the week starting May 11, with both semi-finals on Sunday, June 7.

The final will again be at Wembley Stadium on Challenge Cup Final Day (July 18). The difference this year is that the game will played ahead of the Challenge Cup final, with a midday kick-off.

Mark Foster, the Chief Commercial Officer of the RFL, said: “We’ve been delighted by the positive reaction to the announcement of the new kick-off time for the final of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup at Wembley Stadium on July 18.

“The competition was introduced last year to give non-Super League clubs a second chance to earn a trip to Wembley, and it’s great to see three community clubs who have already made a big impact in the Challenge Cup this season – Underbank Rangers, West Hull and York Acorn – getting involved.

“Sheffield Eagles and Widnes Vikings were the first two clubs to earn a trip to Wembley last year, and you only had to watch their semi-final victories over Batley and Leigh respectively, or the memorable quarter-final performances produced by Barrow, Doncaster and York, to see that the competition had gripped the imagination of players, coaches and supporters.

“We’ll again be showing a game from each round on Our League, as well as both semi-finals.

“We appreciate that playing the second round and the quarter-finals in midweek is challenging, especially for players.

“But before introducing this new competition last year, we discussed all options with the clubs and it was agreed that it would be unavoidable given the demands of our other competitions.

“We hope the players and supporters feel that it’s worthwhile for the chance of a trip to Wembley.”

1895 Cup

First round (draw March 18, ties to be played on weekend of April 18-19): Barrow Raiders, Doncaster, Keighley Cougars, Newcastle Thunder, Rochdale Hornets, Underbank Rangers, West Hull, York Acorn.

Second round (draw March 18, ties to be played week starting April 27): Four first round winners plus Batley Bulldogs, Bradford Bulls, Dewsbury Rams, Featherstone Rovers, Halifax, Leigh Centurions, Oldham, Sheffield Eagles, Swinton Lions, Whitehaven, Widnes Vikings, York City Knights.

Quarter-finals: Week starting May 11

Semi-finals: Sunday June 7

Final: Saturday July 18, Wembley Stadium (Midday kick-off)