The RFU Championship
The RFU 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.
Photo: Getty Images
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 take their place in the Aviva Premiership for the first time in the club’s history this season, led by former Ospreys head coach and Welsh international Lyn Jones.
The 2012-13 season will see a revised structure as the 12 clubs compete in a league season 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 two legs.
The new structure will provide 11 home games for the Championship clubs and a minimum of six games in the revised British & Irish Cup.
The cross-border competition will now run across nine weeks with six pool rounds, concluded by three weeks of knock-out stages (quarter-final, semi-final and final).
RFU Championship two-legged finals
Bedford Blues v Newcastle Falcons, Thursday, May 23, KO 7.45pm. Live on Sky Sports HD
Newcastle Falcons v Bedford Blues, Wednesday, May 29, KO 7.45pm. Live on Sky Sports HD
Keep up to date with all of the latest news, scores and pictures @RFUChampionship
You can keep up-to-date with news on the Championship season in the dedicated Championship news section on RFU.com.
For RFU Championship enquiries, please email RFUchampionship@therfu.com