- New RFU Championship season launched at Twickenham
- London Scottish and Leeds Carnegie welcomed to the league
Photo: RFU Archive
The 2011-12 RFU Championship was launched at Twickenham this week with all twelve captains attending to kick-off the new season.
Now in its third year, the Championship has continued to provide high paced, high scoring action with an average of five tries scored per game in the 2010-11 season. Joining the league this year are London Scottish – promoted from SSE National League 1 – and Leeds Carnegie who were relegated from the Aviva Premiership in May this year.
Speaking at the launch yesterday, the Rugby Football Union’s Rugby Operations Director Rob Andrew said: "You just have to look at the quality of the rugby played in the past two years, particularly at the top of the league towards the end of the last season, to see the success of this competition.
"From an RFU perspective, we can gage that success by the quality of young players coming through the Championship on dual registration with the Premiership, and then also the number of players who are being signed up by Premiership clubs out of Championship sides.
"As we have seen, there are some very good sides wanting to get to the top of the RFU Championship and I think this season more than most, you couldn’t pick a winner. One of six teams could win the league this year and that tells you everything you need to know."
New for the 2011-12 season, the RFU Championship funding will now be subject to clubs meeting the English Qualified Players scheme (EQP), as Andrew explained: "We have mirrored some of the funding that we have put into the Premiership and said to the Championship clubs that all of the RFU funding will be conditional on them producing English Qualified Players (EQP).
"So, as with the Premiership, they have to have a minimum of 14 EQP players in the match day squad to receive the RFU funding. Effectively, all of the RFU funding is now conditional on producing what we need for the development and success of the game at the top level."
Everyone is raring to go – Calder
Joining his fellow Championship captains at Twickenham, Lewis Calder – captain of promoted side London Scottish – spoke on his side’s rivalry with next door neighbours London Welsh and the club’s excitement as they approach their debut Championship season.
“Both ourselves and London Welsh enjoy so much tradition and history and it’s great that we will be in the same league this year, playing against them and hopefully in front of some good crowds. Everyone is raring to go on that front!
"It’s fantastic to be in the Championship. The club was aiming to get here and we’ve done that and it’s great to be in the second tier of English rugby. Exeter Chiefs are a fantastic example of team ethic and determination, so to see a team like that move into the top tier and do very well, it’s hugely exciting.
"You can see the gap between the top of the Championship and bottom of the Premiership getting smaller and that’s very encouraging. Similarly, seeing how Esher did last year is a really good bench mark for us as the promoted side."