Greene King IPA Championship
The Greene King IPA Championship, formally SSE National League One, was formed in 2009 and is the second tier of professional rugby in England.
In the competition’s debut year, Exeter Chiefs lifted the trophy at the Memorial Stadium, following a 38-16 aggregate score over Bristol Rugby. A wet night in May 2010 saw the Chiefs storm to victory over the men in blue, as the boot of Gareth Steenson – who kicked 33 points – secured his side’s debut place in the Aviva Premiership. Since their promotion to the top 12 of English rugby, the West Country men have claimed a top-six finish and will this year compete in the Heineken Cup.
Exchanging place with the Chiefs was Worcester Warriors, who dropped into the second tier following 15 losses in the top flight. Having returned to English rugby with the aim of leading the Warriors back to the Premiership, Head Coach Richard Hill admitted that the RFU Championship “…is a battle every single week”, seen most noticeably in his side’s semi-final clash against Bedford Blues at Sixways; a game which saw the visitors come within two points of beating the Warriors. But as history shows, Worcester survived one of the standout games of English domestic rugby, going on to defeat Cornish Pirates across the two-legged final.
The Pirates found themselves in the final for two consecutive years following strong league campaigns, with the 2012 title slipping from their grasp for a second time as London Welsh claimed the trophy at the Kassam Stadium in May. The Exiles' time in the top tier was short-lived however, exchanging places with Newcastle Falcons in 2013 who secured promotion with a 49-33 aggregate score over first-time finalists Bedford Blues.
Photo: Getty Images
In 2013/14, London Welsh followed suit, also making an immediate return to the Premiership. On an emotionally charged evening in the West Country, opposition Bristol Rugby were denied a winning farewell to the Memorial Stadium, its famous home of 93 years, after Welsh scored twice late on to claim a 21-20 victory on the night, 28-48 on aggregate, with Welsh securing a 19-point lead in the first leg.
Greene King IPA
Photo: RFU Archive
Greene King IPA became the first title partner of the Championship in June 2013, consolidating its position as one of the key supporters of rugby at all levels of the game.
Following the announcement, RFU Chief Commercial Officer Sophie Goldschmidt commented: “We are delighted to have reached agreement with Greene King IPA to become the title partner of the RFU Championship. The Championship has developed significantly thanks to the continued commitment of the clubs and the Union. It has led the way with innovations such as RefCam and live Twitter streaming for fans, which have helped it become the fantastic competition it is today.”
Chris Houlton, Managing Director of Greene King Brewing & Brands, added: “Greene King IPA has been a supporter of rugby union at all levels for many years and we are looking forward to an exciting partnership with the Championship over the next four seasons and bringing the great taste of quality cask ale to rugby fans across the country. The Championship is a fantastic division and a proven hotbed of emerging rugby talent - we see this as the perfect time to commit to a long-term agreement and help raise its profile.”
- Stage 1: 23 league rounds
- Stage 2: two legged semi-finals and two legged final
The structure also provides 11 home games for the Championship clubs and a minimum of six games in the revised British & Irish Cup.
The cross-border competition will see 24 teams competing in 2013-14 rather than 32, playing in six pools of four.
Keep up to date with all of the latest news, scores and pictures @Champrugby
You can keep up-to-date with news on the Greene King IPA Championship season in the dedicated Championship news section on RFU.com.
For Greene King IPA Championship enquiries, please email RFUchampionship@therfu.com