- Competition now enters fourth year
- Jersey face Pirates in tough opening test
Photo: RFU Archive
The opening round of the new RFU Championship season promises some fierce encounters as England’s second professional tier battle it out for the 2012-13 title.
Now spanning further across the British Isles than ever before, the second tier of English rugby enters its fourth season this year. From Jersey to Newcastle, Moseley to Bedford, Nottingham to Rotherham, the competition has continued to produce some standout rugby such as Worcester’s narrow 23-22 semi-final victory over Bedford Blues in May 2011 and Rotherham's last minute win over local rivals Doncaster in February this year.
With the new season just over six weeks away, the unveiling of the 2012-13 fixtures presented some nail biting game to get the campaign started.
The West Country in particular will play host to three of the six fixtures, with Plymouth Albion, Bristol Rugby and Cornish Pirates all welcoming sides in the opening round. Championship newcomers Jersey RFC begin their debut season in the competition with a trip to Penzance; one of their shorter away trips. The Islanders face a tough welcome to the Championship against the Pirates, now twice runners-up in consecutive seasons.
Further inland, 2011-12 league stage winners Bristol Rugby host recently relegated Newcastle Falcons on their first outing into Championship. With experienced coach Dean Richards at the helm, The Memorial Stadium is set to stage a clash of former Premiership clubs when these two meet on Sunday, September 2.
Photo: RFU Archive
Kicking off the opening weekend is Nottingham Rugby, who welcome Leeds Carnegie to Meadow Lane on Friday, August 31. With the departure of Glenn Delaney – who held the position of Director of Rugby for nine years at the Green and Whites – new coach Martin Haag will no doubt be eager to get the season underway. Following a disappointing play-off campaign for the Yorkshire side, Leeds Carnegie’s emphasis is now heavily centered on youth and development as they begin to plan for a Premiership return.
New strucutre for 2012-13
Elsewhere, having survived their debut season in the RFU Championship, London Scottish will host Rotherham Titans in a repeat of their 2011-12 opening fixture, which saw the hosts narrowly beat the Yorkshire men 16-11.
New for the 2012-13 season, a revision to the current structure will see the 12 clubs compete in a league across 22 rounds, with the bottom club relegated to SSE National League 1 and the top four clubs going on to compete in a two-legged semi final and final. The winners of the semi-finals will go on to play in the RFU Championship final – also over two legs.
The new structure provides 11 home games for the Championship clubs and a minimum of six games in the revised British & Irish Cup, which will now include financial rewards for RFU Championship clubs who reach the knock-out stages.
You can see a full list of RFU Championship fixtures on RFU.com. Select ‘Fixtures’ from the top right and then ‘All Outstanding Fixtures’.