BATLEY Bulldogs are facing up to the possibility of having four trips to France during the course of 2017 after the Kingstone Press Championship Shield venues were confirmed.
The Bulldogs start their Shield campaign at home to Swinton Lions on Sunday August 6, while their remaining fixtures will be announced on Monday but Batley will travel to France for a third time.
The Bulldogs suffered a 44-6 defeat at Stade Ernest Argeles on the opening day of the Championship season in February but won 34-16 when they returned to France in the Challenge Cup the following month.
Batley finished the regular Championship season in sixth place, eight points behind Toulouse.
The French side now begin the Shield programme as firm favouriites to clinch a semi-final spot.
With Batley beginning the Shield in second place, two points above Sheffield and six ahead of Dewsbury, they will also feel confident of securing a top four spot and a place in the semi-finals.
Were Batley and Toulouse to finish in the top two places, they would have home advantage in the Shield semi-finals, with the higher ranked club also having home advantage in the final.
Batley will face Oldham, Swinton Lions, Sheffield Eagles and Dewsbury in their four home games, while facing trips to bottom side Bradford Bulls, Rochdale Hornets and Toulouse.
Dewsbury also clinched four home games in the Shield after winning seven of their last 10 games to climb away from the foot of the table.
They enter the Shield programme five points clear of second-bottom Oldham, and start at home to Rochdale, while also entertaining Toulouse, Bradford and Swinton.
The Rams’ three away games are at Oldham, Sheffield and the Heavy Woollen derby trip to Batley.