RFU Championship News

Friday 29th

29th July 2011


RFU Championship News

RFU Championship Friday News Round Up
Friday 29th July 2011


Blues Chairman Geoff Irvine has hailed the club’s turnover form last season as one of their best ever.

A fine Championship campaign, coupled with success in the British & Irish Cup, saw them close in on the “magical break even figure”.

He said: “It would be the most successful season we’ve had off the field in the last 10 years of Bedford Blues history.

“Turnover will definitely be up and we will be the closest we’ve ever been to that magical break even figure.”

But he says more still needs to be done by the RFU is Championship clubs are going to be able to realistically challenge the current Premiership cartel.

Full Story www.bedfordtoday.co.uk

Meanwhile new signing Dave Vincent has hailed ex-Saracens centre and current academy coach Kevin Sorrell for talking him up to Bedford Blues director of rugby Mike Rayer.

The winger became the former Welsh fullback’s ninth and final summer acquisition last month, signing from Barking after racking up 19 tries for the National One outfit last term and being named in the division’s team of the year.

But the 21-year-old has also tasted life at the Premiership champions, spending last pre-season at Saracens and featuring at academy level.

“Last year, I had Kevin Sorrell at Sarries. He has played at the highest level like Mike has,” Vincent said. “First of all, it just gives you confidence when people like that have confidence in you.

“Just to get that experience, and have their advice on certain situations and having them take you under their wing, is pretty awesome. I’m at Bedford to develop and become a better player.

Vincent, who got his first taste of international rugby in the autumn with England Counties alongside new Blues scrum half Stefan Liebenberg, says he also took the advice of the half back’s Goldington Road predecessor, in making the step up to the Championship.

“One of my friends is Will Chudley and I spoke to him about coming here. He said it was a really good club. Obviously, he’s at Newcastle and there are loads of players who have been at Bedford that have gone up.

“I’m only 21 and I’ve got to get into the squad and the team first – that’s my aim at the beginning – but in the grand scheme of things I want to go as far as I can and Bedford is a great club to do that. It’s a shop window.

Full Story www.bedfordshire-news.co.uk

Bristol Rugby

New Bristol Rugby academy manager, Mike Hall, is relishing the prospect of seeing some of the best Under-16s in action when his academy charges take on a select Bristol Combination side at Clifton RFC on Sunday, August 21.

The eagerly-anticipated clash, which will act as a curtain-raiser to the pre-season friendly between Clifton and Bristol, will be 12-a-side match and will give local Combination-based players the opportunity to showcase their talents in front of the new academy management team.

Hall said: "We're hoping to make this a regular pre-season fixture. We have a system in place called the Bristol Rugby Academy Pathway that helps us identify talented players at various stages of their development and, so far, it's been a very successful model.

"But we are aware that there may be some players that have slipped through the net and the game against the Combination gives us an opportunity to see some lads that we might have missed for whatever reason.

"Bristol really is a rugby city with a tremendous amount of clubs in and around the area. I think it's important for us to build strong links with the Combination clubs and, we see this fixture as a step in the right direction."

Full Story www.thisisbristol.co.uk

Cornish Pirates

CORNISH Pirates flanker Sam Betty has called time on his career in the Duchy and become the second member of the squad this summer to join Premiership new-boys Worcester Warriors, writes Dick Straughan.

Bristol born Betty, 24, follows lock Ben Gulliver who moved to Sixways at the end of last season after spending six years with the Pirates in which he made 136 appearances.

Betty joined from Truro RFC in 2005 and made his first start in Pirates colours in the inaugural match at Kenwyn during the 2005-06 season against Earth Titans.

He featured 29 times during last season's Championship campaign for the Pirates cementing his reputation as a tireless and no-nonsense flanker as the club reached the Championship Final.

Pirates High Performance Manager Chris Stirling said: "Worcester have got some injury problems in that position and the opportunity arose for Sam after they went looking for new flankers.

"We have got good cover in the back row so I'm happy we can cope with his loss."

Chief executive Rod Coward added: "It's always a case of mixed emotions when one of our better players leaves to play at a higher level.

"Of course we're pleased that Sam's abilities have been recognised and we wish him every success for his future at Worcester."

Full Story www.thisiscornwall.co.uk

Meanwhile Charlie Walker-Blair, has joined the Pirates on a dual registration agreement with Exeter Chiefs.

A back-rower who is 6' 4" tall and weighs in at nearly 15½ stone, Charlie has also played on the wing and made prvious appearances for Taunton, Minehead, and Carterton in New Zealand.

His honours include playing for Somerset and for Wairapa Bush.

Charlie is the fifth player from Exeter to be dual registered with the Cornish Pirates, joining colleagues Tom Cowan-Dickie, Dave Ewers, Lloyd Fairbrother and Sam Hill.

Commenting on Charlie's dual registration, high performance manager Chris Stirling said:  "When recently discussing dual registered players with Rob Baxter, Charlie's name was mentioned and he was strongly recommended as someone who is rated very highly."


Charlie Walker-Blair began last season on-loan at Taunton and opened in prolific try-scoring form, but a knee injury suffered in the autumn has kept him out of action since.

Since rejoining the Chiefs he has worked on converting from a wing to a flanker and Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter said: "We think he has the potential for a bright future in the back-row, his physical presence is very good and it's very important he gets as much rugby as possible."

"A move to the Pirates, who are a very good side, is fantastic news for us, him and the Pirates."

Full Story www.thisiscornwall.co.uk

Doncaster Knights

John Lowe writing in the Star says: with the Knights’ first pre-season friendly at home to Hull on Friday, August 5 fast approaching, the intensity in training is starting to crank up as players go head to head at scrums, lineouts, etc.

Things seem to be falling into place quite nicely and I feel pretty sure that our director of rugby, Brett Davey, and his fellow coaches are quite happy about the way things are going.

I went down on Saturday to watch a live scrummaging session and it looked hard! We seem to have a very close knit group of players and the team spirit is unbelievably high.

This week we had a visit from a member of the RFU staff to show us how to use the new computerised analysis system now available to Championship clubs.

This is the same facility that has been available to the Premiership clubs previously and I like to think that it is an indication of how important the Championship is viewed by the RFU.

Full Story www.thestar.co.uk

London Welsh

London Welsh have confirmed its playing squad for the new season, with new coach head Lyn Jones describing it as the perfect blend of youth and experience.

The likes of captain Jonathan Mills, vice captain Gordon Ross, second row Matt Corker, number eight Lee Beach and scrum half Rob Lewis will provide the wise old heads, while the likes of new signings Gerard Mullen, Ed Jackson and Will Hurrell will bring the youthful exuberance

“We’ve put together a well balanced squad with a good mixture of youth and experience,”said Jones. “We’ve got key players in key positions, which offers us a good spine, and that’s very important.”

While Jones concedes losing players of the calibre of Josh Drauniniu and Errie Claassens is a blow, the new London Welsh head coach prefers to look upon their departure as a chance for others to now step up to the mark.

“Yes, we’ve lost two players who scored a lot of tries for us last season, which is a big loss and leaves some big boots to fill for the boys who’ve come in, but that creates a great opportunity for the players we’ve recruited to show what they can do,” he said.

Experienced second row Gary Johnson and England Academy prop Billy Moss join Welsh on season long loans from London Irish and Bath respectively, while the Welsh squad will also be boosted by a number of exciting dual registration signings from London Irish.

Among those available to Welsh are prop Max Lahiff, wing Marland Yarde and wing/centre Guy Armitage, all of whom will be familiar to the Old Deer Park faithful having turned out for the club last season, while lock Kieran Low is another emerging talent.

Jones also heads into the new season knowing that he could be deprived the services of USA prop Shawn Pittman and Tonga centre Hudson Tonga’uiha for several months, should the pair both be selected by their countries for the World Cup in New Zealand. But again Jones prefers to look at it as a huge positive for the club

“You want the best for your players and I think it would be great for London Welsh as a club if we have two representatives at the World Cup,” said Jones

“It’s a long way from seven representatives for the British Lions in 1971, but it’s a step.”

London Welsh Squad for 2011/12

Full backs:
Edd Thrower, Gerard Mullen

Liam Gibson, Will Hurrell, Ashley Smith (Trialist

Outside centres:
Hudson Tonga’uhiu, James Lewis

Inside centres:
Paul Mackey, Simon Whatling, Seb Jewell

Fly halves
Gordon Ross (Vice-captain), Alex Davies

Scum halves:
Robert Lewis, Ben Stevenson

Shawn Pittman, Billy Moss, James Tideswell, Greg Bateman

Vili Ma’asi, Dan George, Saul Nelson

Matt Corker, Gary Johnson, Adam Brown, Mike Powell, Martin Purdy

Back Row:
Jonathan Mills (captain), Lee Beach, Ed Jackson, Epi Taione, Michael Hills, Mike Denbee, Ben Russell, James Harris (Trialist)

London Irish Dual Registration Players:
Marland Yarde (Wing), Guy Armitage (Wing/Centre), Leo Halavatau (Prop), Jack Moates (Scrum half), Ross Samson (Scrum half), Max Lahiff (Prop), Mark George (Prop), Kieran Low (Lock/flanker).


Meanwhile London Welsh and London Irish have announced the extension of their player affiliation agreement for a third year.

The two clubs have enjoyed a mutually beneficial arrangement since 2009, and last season alone ten London Irish players turned out for Welsh in the Championship and British & Irish Cup. In 2009/10 the number was seven.

The blossoming relationship between the two clubs also extends to training against each other in controlled game situations and last season London Irish’s A League team was regularly supplemented by players from London Welsh.

Two players that represented Welsh on loan last season have since made the switch to Old Deer Park a permanent one – Ben Stevenson and James Tideswell.

The two clubs will also kick-off their pre-season preparations against each other at Sunbury on August 13 (3pm). It will be the third year in a row the sides have faced each other in a pre-season fixture

Under the affiliation agreement for 2011/12, London Welsh will have access to experienced second row Gary Johnson on a season long loan, and England Academy players Marland Yarde, Max Lahiff, Guy Armitage and Kieran Low – all of whom will be dual-registered with Welsh

London Welsh Managing Director John Taylor said: “It’s been a really terrific association with London Irish. The co-operation between the two clubs has been mutually beneficial, and long may it continue.

“Toby [Booth] has been fantastic to work with and understands our priorities, and we understand where Irish are coming from as well

“We get access to some very exciting young players and they can gain invaluable experience in the Championship, because the league is now of a very high standard.

London Irish Head Coach Toby Booth said: “London Irish and London Welsh have been working in a close productive partnership for a couple a years now.

“It provides a playing platform for both senior players and academy players that require competitive opportunities and game time. It allows more productive training to be undertaken for both clubs which is hugely beneficial.

“This is the third year we have had this partnership and it has got more productive each year and I am sure will continue to improve.”

Full Story www.london-welsh.co.uk


When Nathan Jones was offered the opportunity to join Nottingham Rugby, he jumped at the chance.

The 27-year-old fly half has joined the Green and Whites from Doncaster Knights on a one-year deal and is already settling in well at Meadow Lane.

"Things are going great, I'm really enjoying it," said Jones. "There's a good bunch of lads here.

"I know quite a few of them from my time at Leicester when I was in the academy and they have helped me to settle in quickly.

"I've played against a lot of them too when I was at Coventry a few years ago and at Doncaster last year. I've probably played against most of the squad at some time or another.

"I'm very optimistic about the new season. We've been doing a lot of hard work over the last few weeks and that should pay off when the season starts."

Other clubs had been chasing Jones and the interest from Nottingham came when he was away on holidays in Malaysia.

But director of rugby's Glenn Delaney's vision of the future helped convince Jones his immediate future lies at Meadow Lane.

"When I met Glenn he said he had put a squad together a couple of years back who were on two and three year contracts and in that time the club had finished second in the Championship," he said. "He's trying to replicate that and go one better with the squad we have by giving players two-year contracts.

"It's not rocket science. If you can get a good bunch of lads together who play rugby and keep them together for two or three years then, hopefully, at some point, you will be up there challenging for finals."

Jones's pedigree includes two England U19 World Cup appearances and a spell with Leicester Tigers.

He has more reason than most to be having fun and playing with a smile.

Just six short years ago, he was wondering if he would ever walk again, let alone play rugby again when he was diagnosed with a career-threatening back problem.

After showing promise with Lichfield and Moseley, he moved to Leicester Tigers where he caught the eye of the England age-group selectors as he battled with Harry Ellis, the present England scrum half, at Welford Road.

But it all came to an abrupt end when he became a victim of a hereditary back complaint.

It laid him low and brought an sudden halt to his rugby ambitions when Leicester cancelled his contract.

However, Jones then faced the immediate challenge of whether he would ever stand or walk again.

After countless visits to specialists in Harley Street, he gradually got back to where he could stand for more than five minutes.

They were tough and difficult times and progress was painful and slow but his recovery was helped by a visit to a holistic therapy practitioner in Wakefield who revealed an unidentified dimension to the problem.

"She discovered that I had a grain and wheat intolerance," said Jones. "The impact of that was having an effect on the work I was doing to get my spinal problems resolved.

He got the ok to resume his rugby career around Christmas 2006 and, after easing his way back with Lichfield, the chance to resume at a higher level came at Coventry with a full-time contract.

"Touch wood, since I've been back I've had no problems. I have to do my exercises and manage my diet, but I'm fine with that. So, to come here to Nottingham and the camaraderie that the squad has is brilliant."

Full Story www.thisisnottingham.co.uk

Plymouth Albion

Albion boss Graham Dawe has not ruled out adding to his Championship squad with just over one month to go before the start of the season.

Albion have so far announced nine permanent new signings, but they also have six more players who are either training with the club or on extended trials, and six more who have dual registered from Exeter.

Dawe, though, admits he has not stopped looking for new players.

"You are always looking for players who wish to join the club," said Dawe. "There is always a possibility of other players joining."

Albion have now been back in training for a month and Dawe has been happy with how the new players have settled in.

"They have trained with intensity and we hope they are enjoying their work," said Dawe."That is all we can ask."

On how pre-season training is going, Dawe added: "This process is all geared up to doing well in the first Championship match of the season.

"Players are working hard and putting in some good stints on the training field, but that does not guarantee results. Hopefully, though, it will put us in a good position to try and get those results."

He added: "We have been through a heavy work programme the last few weeks, but this week will be slightly lighter.

"But then the intensity levels will rise again next week. We are now trying to increase the skill levels across the board.

"There is still lots of work to be done over the coming weeks, as is the case with all the other Championship sides."

Full Story www.thisisplymouth.co.uk

Rotherham Titans

Titans say there is not much to report on the move to Millmoor other than to confirm it is still in the hands of the lawyers.

There is still an outside chance that some of the end of season games may be staged at the new ground but most of the season will be played at Clifton Lane. 

Obviously development of the new ground needs to be completed to the level our supporters would expect in order to enjoy the Match Day experience and no move will be considered until that can be achieved.