- More than 30 Championship players represented their country at RWC 2011
- Former Nottingham player Ali Williams lifts trophy with All Blacks
Photo: Getty Images
The RFU Championship made its presence known on the international stage during Rugby World Cup 2011, with no less than 30 players representing their country in New Zealand.
Perhaps the most famous of all those was Ali Williams who, along with his All Black team mates, lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy following the narrowest of wins over France in the Rugby World Cup Final. Williams joined Nottingham Rugby in January 2011, having been released by the New Zealand Rugby Union and allowed to play up to four matches with the Green & Whites.
The 30-year-old, who joined a strong Kiwi contingency of Director of Rugby Glenn Delany and club captain Craig Hammond, used the overseas opportunity to help return to the game after injury.
Following the All Blacks famous win over France, Delaney commented: "It was only a brief spell that he had with us but I think that we played a small part in helping him get on to that winners’ podium at Eden Park on Sunday.
"He’s a world-class second row and I think he showed that when he came on against France. He played a massive part in the win, particularly in controlling the ball during those last three minutes.
“It was fantastic to see how genuinely elated he was at the final whistle. Having been through two years where he hardly played any rugby at all, he’s just enjoying playing again."
Elsewhere, Bedford Blues captain James Pritchard took to the field for Canada, having only just returned from international duty for the North American side during the 2011 Churchill Cup.
It was an amazing experience – Pittman
London Welsh were also represented on the other side of the world, with Shawn Pittman donning the stars and stripes of his native USA. Following his return to the Surrey side, the prop said that despite the Eagles failing to progress past the group stages, the experience was one he won’t forget.
"It was great, it was an amazing experience. There were so many more fans supporting us than we get in the US – there was red, white and blue everywhere. It was really magical.
"Our warm up games were pretty bad, our defence was horrible. But we showed up and played as hard as we could and our defence became a key thing for us – people were surprised."
And finally, despite the Rugby World Cup now over, the RFU Championship is continuing to impact the international scene with both Bristol Rugby and Cornish Pirates snapping up players fresh from New Zealand.
League leading Bristol – still clinging onto the top spot following a 44-6 loss to Rotherham Titans – announced the signing of Tonga wing William Helu who will join the side in November. Further into the West Country, Pirates have boosted their squad with Canadian full back Matt Evans, following the blow to Wes Davies who is kept out of selection due to an Achilles injury.