- Twickenham finals on England v Barbarians day
- Bill Beaumont Cup and Shield for 27 county sides
The RFU County Championship returns for the 2011 season this week with ‘rolling substitutions’ on trial again, and former winners Surrey back in the fold after a five-year absence.
Surrey’s players demanded the county’s return to the historic championship - which began in the 19th century and was won by Lancashire in 2010 - and they will take their place in the Shield competition which is principally for players at clubs playing at Level 5 and below in the league structure.
Richie Andrews and Duncan Cormack, experienced club coaches, will jointly coach the Surrey side and team manager Ian Newcastle has been in touch with 45 players who expressed a commitment to be available for selection.
Both the top-tier Bill Beaumont Cup (Division One) and County Championship Shield competitions culminate in prestigious finals at Twickenham Stadium on Sunday May 29, either side of England’s match against the Barbarians on that day.
The Plate final for the Bill Beaumont Cup (Division Two) will be held at a venue in the North on rotation, Kent having hosted it last year
Rolling substitutions will be on trial in the county matches for a second season, with 12 ‘interchanges’ permitted per match.
"We are very pleased to see Surrey back," said Rob Briers, chairman of the RFU’s Competitions Committee. "Historically they competed very well in the County Championship and their presence adds to the strength and appeal of the Shield."
London & SE expecting stern competition
Looking round the London & South East region, Hertfordshire and Kent share the tough challenge of meeting Cornwall and Gloucestershire in the South pool of the Bill Beaumont Cup (Division One).
Eastern Counties are in Division Two of the Bill Beaumont Cup with Durham and Northumberland, competing for the Plate title, while Essex are grouped with Buckinghamshire, East Midlands and Leicestershire in the County Championship Shield.
Surrey were county champions in 1971, and shared the title in 1967, and they now look forward to Shield fixtures with neighbours and rivals Middlesex and Sussex.
An added incentive for players involved in the Bill Beaumont Cup is the possibility of gaining selection and wearing the national colours for the England Counties XV who will play three matches in Spain in early June.
The annual 14-day summer tour, from May 31 to June 12, will include matches against a Madrid XV, a Castilla Leon Union XV in Salamanca and a Spain XV on June 11 in Valladolid.