- Nottingham host Bedford in opening encounter
- Worcester Warriors seek rapid return to top tier
Photo: Pinnacle Photo Agency
The Greene King IPA Championship will kick off its sixth season as the second tier of professional rugby on Friday when Nottingham Rugby host Bedford Blues at Meadow Lane (kick-off 8pm).
The fixture marks the start of the 2014/15 Championship season with the 2012/13 semi-final opponents going head-to-head. As history shows, Bedford went on to book their place in the final over the Green & Whites, eventually losing out on promotion to Newcastle Falcons. However, with an impressive pre-season win over Leicester Tigers, the home side will be confident of starting their season campaign on the front foot.
Elsewhere in round one, Sky Sports continue their ground-breaking coverage of the competition, which has witnessed the first use of Ref Cam in professional rugby union as well introducing half-time interviews, warm-up and changing room access into the second tier in 2011.
Their coverage begins with a heavyweight showdown between Bristol Rugby and Worcester Warriors live from Ashton Gate Stadium on Sunday (kick-off 2.30pm).
Bristol moved into Ashton Gate, home of Bristol City FC, over the summer and will be looking for a fresh start after the disappointment of losing the 2013/14 Championship final to London Welsh in May. With names including Dwayne Peel, Ryan Jones, Anthony Perenise plus former Warriors David Lemi and Chris Brooker, the West Country men certainly bring plenty of experience to the competition.
Their opposition, led by Dean Ryan, will be looking to repeat what London Welsh and Newcastle Falcons managed; an immediate return to the top tier. But having been in the Championship before, the Warriors know all too well of the challenges presented by the other 11 clubs.
“As you can see by the opening weekend, the Championship just gets more competitive year after year,” explained Geoff Irvine, Chairman of the Championship Clubs Committee.
“The battle for a top-four place, as well as to avoid relegation, will undoubtedly be fierce this season with the margin between teams ever decreasing. With a Championship XV fixture against Canada included within the schedule, the next nine months promises to be fascinating.”
Photo: Pinnacle Photo Agency
Elsewhere, Doncaster Knights mark their return to the professional game with a home fixture against Plymouth Albion, London Scottish welcome 2013/14 semi-finalists Rotherham Titans to the Athletic Ground, and Moseley host Jersey from Billesley Common. Cornish Pirates complete the weekend, hosting newly named Yorkshire Carnegie at The Mennaye.
All 12 captains were present at Greene King IPA’s flagship brewery on Wednesday, marking the second year of title sponsorship under the brewer. Commenting on the beginning of the 2014/15 season Chris Houlton, managing director of Greene King Brewing and Brands, added:
“Our focus for the next season is to work with the RFU on driving more awareness and footfall to the games over the next 12 months. While the players will be creating great moments on the pitch, we will be looking to match that excitement with competitions and beer festivals that both showcase new, innovative craft ales and our original, easy-drinking Greene King IPA.”
2014/15 Greene King IPA Championship round one fixtures
Nottingham v Bedford Blues, Friday September 5, kick-off 8pm
Doncaster Knights v Plymouth Albion, Saturday September 6, kick-off 2.30pm
London Scottish v Rotherham Titans, Saturday September 6, kick-off 3pm
Moseley v Jersey, Saturday September 6, kick-off 3pm
Bristol Rugby v Worcester Warriors, Sunday September 7, kick-off 2.40pm, live on Sky Sports HD
Cornish Pirates v Yorkshire Carnegie, Sunday September 7, kick-off 3pm