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RFU Championship 2011/12 season preview

01 September 2011

  • Third season of the RFU Championship kicks-off this Saturday
  • New boys London Scottish return to second-tier
London Scottish & London Welsh captains at Twickenham for the season launch

Photo: Getty Images

Predicting the winner of the Championship on the eve of the competition’s third season appears to be an even more difficult task than normal with a number of clubs all capable of taking the title.

Leeds Carnegie are certainly not expected to have it all their own way despite being a top flight side just four months ago. Relegated from the Premiership in May, Carnegie can expect a fierce challenge from the likes of Bedford Blues, who last season came desperately close to knocking out eventual champions Worcester Warriors at the semi-final stage of the competition, while a top four finish will be the minimum requirement of Cornish Pirates and London Welsh.

Welsh provide Leeds with their first test back in the Championship and will be hoping for a repeat of their opening day victory at Headingley in 2006 when they kick off their campaign in Yorkshire on Sunday. The fixture will be the first competitive match in charge for the sides’ respective coaches, with former player Diccon Edwards taking over at Leeds and Lyn Jones, once of Ospreys, in the hot seat at London Welsh.

Coaching changes for Bristol and Moseley

Across the division a number of coaching changes have taken place in pre-season and Liam Middleton could not have asked for a tougher start to his tenure at Bristol than a trip to Doncaster. New fly-half Tristan Roberts is scheduled to make a swift return to Castle Park, the scene of a heavy defeat for the West Country side last term.

Kevin Maggs is another new man at the helm, as he steps up from being assistant coach at Moseley to replace the outgoing Ian Smith. The Birmingham-based club kick off with a home game against Cornish Pirates who they held to a 26-26 draw during the early stages of last season.

On Sunday two of the longest serving directors of rugby go head to head in a mouth-watering tie at Meadow Lane where Glenn Delaney will pit his wits against Mike Rayer in the hope that his Nottingham side can beat Bedford and, by doing so, end a five-year run of losing their first home match of the season.

Graham Dawe and Mike Schmid are two more coaches who need no introduction to the division having clocked up years of respective service at Plymouth and Esher, opponents at Brickfields on Saturday, while Championship new boys London Scottish begin their first season back at this level for just over a decade with a home game against Rotherham Titans.