RFU Championship News

Friday 3rd

RFU Championship News


RFU Championship News And Semi Finals, Teams & Previews

Plus news and comment from around the clubs and what the papers say.

Saturday 4 May 2013
Bedford v Nottingham 15:00

Monday 6 May 2013
Leeds Carnegie v Newcastle 15:15

Bedford v Nottingham - Saturday 15:00

Bedford BluesNottinghamBedford v Nottingham 
Goldington Road
Saturday 4 May
Kick Off 3pm

Live On RFU TV
Twitter @RFUChampionship 


Miike Rayer makes just one change from the side that lost narrowly to Newcastle last week as Ben Gulliver returns from injury after suffering a broken wrist to take a place on the bench.

Games between the two teams have gone the way of the home team, but the Blues will be only too aware the Nottingham will still be smarting from the late defeat that they experienced back in September when Ben Ransom’s final minute try was converted to give Bedford a two point victory.

The reverse fixture wasn’t as close with the Green and Whites taking it 25-17 despite a late rally from the Blues.

Ben GulliverBedford are selecting from an almost fully fit squad after Ben Gulliver was given the all clear following a broken wrist and Henry Staff returned to training following a long term injury.

Unfortunately the game has come too soon for Captain James Pritchard and flanker Sacha Harding although both are close to 100 per cent.

Looking ahead to the all-important clash, Blues Director of Rugby Mike Rayer said: “I thought the lads were terrific last weekend and we played some of our best rugby of the season. Nottingham pose a different threat than the one Newcastle did, I’m sure that the boys will rise to the challenge.

“As much as we have played some great football this year it has been our desire and hunger to just hang in there and try and get a result. I think that has been the major strength of this group this year.

“This will be our fourth appearance in the Championship semi-finals and everyone is determined to stake a claim for a final spot. We know how important home advantage is in games like this so we have to make it count this weekend and I hope that our fans will turn out in force to help us along.”

The Blues may have suffered a narrow defeat to Newcastle Falcons last weekend but Rayer is keeping faith by naming the same starting XV for Saturday’s game. The only change to the squad comes on the bench with Ben Gulliver returning to replace Tom Armes.

Bedford Blues
15. Ben Ransom 14. James Stephenson 13. Brendan Burke 12. Mark Atkinson
11. James Short 10. Myles Dorrian 9. Luke Baldwin
1. Darren Fearn 2. Neil Cochrane 3. Dan Seal 4. Mike Howard
5. Paul Tupai 6. Gregor Gillanders 7. Darren Fox (c) 8. Nick Fenton-Wells

16. Scott Spurling, 17. Phil Boulton, 18. Ben Gulliver, 19. Don Barrell
20. Darryl Veenendaal, 21. Jake Sharp 22. Ollie Dodge


NOTTINGHAM head coach Martin Haag insists victory would be the only fitting way to mark what he considers one of the greatest moments in the club’s history.

The Green and Whites kick-off their home and away RFU Championship play-off semi-final at Goldington Road against Bedford tomorow).

Haag has encouraged his players to embrace the excitement of the occasion, but not at the expense of losing sight of their lofty ambitions.

Nottingham Rugby head coach Martin Haag“It is probably one of the biggest games in the club’s history, and for this group of players it is an important match on the journey,” Haag said.

“The important thing is that we use the emotions that go with being in the semi-final, but that we are also tactically spot-on with what we are doing and that we remain nice and calm.

“This is, after all, just another game and we can’t lose focus of that.

“We are going to Bedford to win the game – that is simply what we have to do.

“It is going to be a big challenge. It is very important that we come away on top on Saturday and return to Meadow Lane with that advantage.

“We had it in the bag last time we were down there, but they showed character and skill with the way they went beyond 80 minutes to get the winning try in the final seconds.

“It was the same at Meadow Lane, I thought we controlled the match for large periods and they came back at us and put us under pressure. “

Haag makes eight changes to the starting side that travelled to Leeds on the final day of the league season.

Captain Brent Wilson, recently re-signed No. 8 Alex Shaw, lock Nic Rouse and props Matt Parr and Michael Holford all return to the pack.

The half-back combination of Sean Romans and James Arlidge will again orchestrate proceedings while Sale Sharks-bound centre Andy Forsyth slots in alongside Nottingham’s Young Player of the Year Joe Munro at outside centre.

Both backs Tim Streather and Andrew Savage have failed to fully recover from injuries picked up against the Cornish Pirates at Meadow Lane last month.

Jack Cobden is poised to make his 100th appearance for the club as he takes his place on the replacements bench.

Nottingham Rugby
15 David Jackson 14 Alex Lewington 13 Andy Forsyth 12 Joe Munro
11 Rhys Crane 10 James Arlidge 9 Sean Romans
1 Matt Parr 2 Joe Duffey 3 Michael Holford 4 Dan Montagu
5 Nic Rouse 6 Rupert Cooper 7 Brent Wilson 8 Alex Shaw.

Replacements: 16 Shaun Malton 17 Ryan Bower 18 Tom Price 19 Tom Calladine
20 Harrison Lee-Everton 21 Rory Lynn 22 Jack Cobden

What The Papers Say

Michael Hann, Bedford Today: Blues Near Full Strength For Nottingham Challenge

Both sides have got the better of each other in the league this season and Bedford director of rugby Mike Rayer is predicting another close contest.

He said: “It is second and third in the league, three points separating us, but it is an intriguing one because both sides can score and score quickly.

“What we have got on our side, we have got experience at this. It is Nottingham’s first time in a two-leg situation.

“But it doesn’t change the fact, if you win both legs you are in the final so both sides will be looking at that."

Full Story www.bedfordtoday.co.uk

Nottingham Post: Nottingham Rugby Ace Arlidge Wants To Go Out On A High

JAMES Arlidge has got his flight home booked – and now he wants to help Nottingham Rugby book their place in the Championship play-off final.

The Green and Whites' ace fly-half will retire at the end of the season and jump on a plane back to New Zealand with his family.

But first he wants to go out on a high, by inspiring the Greens to victory against Bedford Blues in the play-off semi finals.

"Some people will probably be thinking I've half got a foot on the plane home, but I've not," said Arlidge. "I really want to finish the season and my career on a high note."

Full Story www.thisisnottingham.co.uk

Leeds Carnegie v Newcastle - Monday 15:15

Leeds CarnegieNewcastle FalconsLeeds Carnegie v Newcastle   
Headingley Stadium
Monday 6 May
Kick Off 3:15pm

Live On SKY TV


Leeds Carnegie

Leeds Carnegie Player of the Season Stevie McColl has been named at full back for his side’s massive RFU Championship semi final first leg clash with Newcastle Falcons at Headingley Carnegie on Bank Holiday Monday.

McColl was forced off with a shoulder injury in the final game of the regular season against Nottingham but has recovered sufficiently in the last fortnight to face the league leaders.

Leeds are without hooker Joe Graham, who cannot play against Newcastle as part of his loan arrangement from the Falcons to Leeds this season. Rory Clegg has returned to Harlequins at the end of his loan spell before joining the Falcons next season.

Matt Smith starts in the second row instead of Dominic Barrow whilst Craig Hampson returns to start at scrum half.

Leeds Carnegie
15. Stevie McColl 14. Oli Goss 13. Josh Griffin 12. Fred Burdon
11. David Doherty 10. Joe Ford 9. Craig Hampson
1. Lee Imiolek 2. Scott Freer 3. Damien Tussac 4. Calum Green
5. Matt Smith 6. Rob Baldwin 7. Chris Walker 8. Jacob Rowan (c)

17. James Currie 18. Ben Harris 19. Pierce Phillips
20. Ryan Burrows 21. James Doherty 22. Christian Georgiou


Newcastle Falcons have made two changes for Monday’s RFU Championship play-off semi-final first leg match at Leeds Carnegie.

Tane Tu’ipulotu returns to the starting line-up after been side-lined since the turn of the year with a knee injury, while Ryan Shortland starts on the wing after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Tu’ipulotu partners Adam Powell at the heart of the Falcons backline with Jamie Helleur dropping to the bench. Tom Catterick makes way for Shortland, with Alex Tait switching to full-back.

Dean Richards“We are in a good position at the moment with a number of key players coming back from injury, but at the same time we will be taking nothing for granted against Leeds,” Richards said.

“It is crucial that we maintain our performance for the full 80 minutes, and the final six minutes of last weekend’s game proved that,” added Richards whose side progressed through to the British and Irish Cup final by virtue of last Saturday’s 18-15 victory at Bedford Blues despite a late fight-back from their Championship rivals.

Highlighting the strengths of the Yorkshire outfit, Richards said: “Joe Ford will be a key player for them at No.10 with his great kicking game, but he is not the only danger man in the side.

“They have a good pack and their style of play suits the current conditions with the pitches now drying out resulting in a faster track, so it will be a difficult challenge for us.”

Newcastle Falcons:
15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Tane Tu’ipulotu
11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Warren Fury
1 Jonny Golding, 2 Michael Mayhew, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Scott MacLeod
5 James Hudson, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg

16 Rob Vickers, 17 Scott Wilson, 18 Carlo del Fava, 19 Richard Mayhew
20 Chris Pilgrim, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 Jamie Helleur

News From Around The Clubs This Week

Bedford Blues

Bedford BluesBooj Becomes A Blue

Bedford Blues have started their recruitment campaign for the 2013/14 with the capture of highly rated Jersey back Michael Le Bourgeois.

The 22 year old, who can play at fly half or fullback, has been in sparkling form in the RFU Championship this season for the Islanders having scored 159 league points courtesy of three tries, 30 conversions and 27 penalties.

Speaking about the first signing for next season, Blues Director of Rugby Mike Rayer said: “Mike is an outstanding talent who has truly taken to the Championship like a duck to water. There were a lot of clubs interested in signing him and we are delighted that he has chosen to join us here at Goldington Road next season.

“When we faced Jersey back in September and then again in February, we saw just what sort of an impact he can have on a game and at just 22 years old he has many more seasons ahead of him.”

Le Bourgeois added: “I’m really excited about moving over to Bedford and being a part of what is going on there. I got to know Paul Turner and then met with Mike Rayer to discuss a move and things just went on from there.

“I wanted to make a move to experience something new and although I did have other offers, having seen the style and brand of rugby that Bedford play, I knew it was the place for me. Bedford are always competing at the top of the table and I’m really looking forward to working with Mike Rayer.

“It has been a tough decision to leave Jersey as I am born and bred here as well as playing all my rugby with the club, but I am really excited about this next chapter in my career.”

Corey Returns And Four Re-Sign

Bedford Blues have made their second signing of the week by bringing back impressive centre/wing and former Academy player Corey Hircock from Munster.

The former Ireland Under 19 player moved to Munster in the summer of 2010 after spending three years in the Blues Academy. While never breaking into the Munster First XV, Hircock was part of the British & Irish Cup winning Munster ‘A’ last season and has been playing rugby for Garryowen in Limerick.

Speaking about the signing, Blues Director of Rugby Mike Rayer said: “We are really pleased that Corey is coming back home to the Blues. We wanted him to sign a development contract back in 2010 but when a club like Munster come knocking on your door you can’t turn them down.

“Corey has developed well as a player during his time in Ireland and at just 22 years old he has a long future ahead of him and we are all looking forward to seeing him in a Blues jersey next season.”

Corey will be joined at Goldington Road by 4 players who have re-signed for the 2013/14 season. Ben Cooper, Dan Seal, Paul

From The Papers

Michael Hann, Bedford Today:- Rayer Unperturbed By Promotion Ruling

Bedford Blues boss Mike Rayer says his side remain focused on doing the best they can on the pitch despite the news that club does not the meet the entry criteria for promotion, writes Michael Hann.

Reacting to the news, the Blues’ director of rugby said: “I played amateur rugby, no-one paid me to do anything, but it didn’t stop me to go on to win a cup final or win a league.

“I hate losing, I can’t stand losing, so it doesn’t matter where or what you can’t do or where you can’t be taken, all you can do is beat what’s in front of you.

“All I can say is I have been over the moon and delighted with what this group have done so far, but I think there is more to come.”

Full Story www.bedfordtoday.co.uk

Cornish Pirates

Cornish PiratesTalented Cornish Players To Combine Study & Training

A new venture between the Cornish Pirates, Exeter Chiefs and Truro College will give four gifted young Cornish rugby players the opportunity to combine study and training as they look to develop their sporting careers.

The four players are centre Tom Hendrickson and full-back Max Bodilly who have come up through thePirates youth section, flanker Matt Bolwell from Wadebridge and Prop Mike Roach from Penzance.

Robin Cowling, on behalf of Truro CollegRobin Cowling, on behalf of Truro College, said:

“For the last few years Exeter Chiefs and the Cornish Pirates have developed a close working partnership over dual-registered players, that are allowed under the rules of regional academies.

“This new venture with the Cornish Pirates and Exeter Chiefs and Truro College will also be a win win situation for players, clubs and the player’s education at Truro College.

One of our aims with academy players is to look after their development both on and off the field.

This is a great opportunity with the college tailoring their timetable to fit around their rugby training with the Cornish Pirates.”

Full-Back/Wing Craig Holland Signs From Loughborough Students

Cornish Pirates announced the signing of Craig Holland from Loughborough Students.

21yr Old Craig - a full-back/wing - played his early rugby for Brighton and has also been a member of Harlequins and London Irish Academies.

Craig’s signing follows last week's news that back-row forwards Joe Atkinson and Truro-born Jake Parker were also joining the Cornish Pirates from Loughborough Students.

Dave MorrisCraig is another exciting talent who has also played for England Students. All three will thrive working with the coaches alongside so many other gifted individuals. said Dave Morris, head coach at Loughborough Students

“For me the signings further demonstrate how our rugby programme at Loughborough gives up and coming players the right environment to further progress their rugby careers whilst studying for an excellent degree.”

From The Papers: Doncaster Knights

Liam Hoden, The Star: Doncaster Knights: Heavy Artillery In For Knights

Doncaster KnightsClive Griffiths has called in a big gun to help the Knights bounce back from relegation to National One.

The club have unveiled former Rotherham Titans tight head prop Ross Davies as their first summer signing.

Director of rugby Griffiths has worked with the 29-year-old powerhouse before and it is believed that previous relationship helped convince Davies to turn down offers from elsewhere.

“Tight-head prop is one of the most important positions and the signing of Ross, who is not just Championship standard, but pushing Premiership, illustrates the kind of player we want at Doncaster.” said Griffiths.

Full Story www.thestar.co.uk

London Scottish

London ScottishMantella Set For Permanent Scottish Switch

Miles Mantella will make the permanent switch to London Scottish ahead of the 2013-14 season after the Harlequins winger had spent the past season at the Athletic Ground on a dual-registration agreement.

The winger will become a full-time member of Simon Amor's squad after a string of impressive performances in the Scottish shirt last season.

Mantella scored seven Championship tries, earning himself a place in the league's top ten. He scored doubles against both Nottingham and Jersey, as well as a scintillating solo effort against Bristol at the Athletic Ground in April, the 2012-13 London Scottish try of the season.

Mantella said "I'm delighted to be able to make the permanent switch to the Athletic Ground. I've really enjoyed my time here over the course of the last season and I'm grateful for the opportunity to play regular rugby. I'm excited about what London Scottish want to achieve and I look forward to playing my part next season."

Director of Rugby Simon Amor: added "We're delighted to be able to bring Miles onboard as a permanent member of our squad. He showed a tremendous amount of ability during his time with us as a dual-registered player over the course of the season just gone and he offers us an exciting attacking threat out wide. He's a young player with

Newcastle Falcons

Newcastle FalconsFalcons Launch New Kit

Newcastle Falcons launched their new kit at a media session on Wednesday as Dean Richards’ title chasing charges gear up for this Bank Holiday Monday’s play-off semi-final first leg clash at Leeds

The new shirts will be branded with the Teenage Cancer Trust, a charity that the Falcons will be partnering with for the remainder of this season and throughout the 2013-14 campaign.

Over this season the club will work closely with Teenage Cancer Trust to support their vision of ensuring that young people’s lives don’t stop because they have cancer, and to improve their quality of life and chances of survival.

Falcons chief executive Paul Varley said: “We are delighted to welcome the Teenage Cancer Trust as our charity partners. As a family club, we were impressed with the charity’s’ determination to make a real difference to the lives of teenagers and their families within the North East and Cumbria.

“We look forward to working closely with the team to develop the partnership further, and engage not only staff within the organisation but our supporters too.”

Newcastle Named As A Venue For 2015 Rugby World Cup

The Falcons are delighted with the announcement that Newcastle has been picked as a venue for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The city will host the following three matches:-

Saturday 3 October - South Africa v Scotland
Friday 9 October – New Zealand v Tonga
Saturday 10 October – Samoa v Scotland

Falcons chief executive Paul Varley said: “I am delighted that world class rugby is coming to the North East, and this can act as a great catalyst for the club to grow both on and off the field.

“As always we will continue our commitment to developing grassroots rugby in the community as we build momentum towards this global event.”


NottinghamNottingham Duo Of Shaw And Calladine Sign New Deals

NOTTINGHAM back-row forwards Alex Shaw and Tom Calladine have signed contract extensions with the Meadow Lane club.

Green and Whites head coach Martin Haag said he is delighted that the pair have agreed new deals

Shaw, 26, has been ever-present for the RFU Championship high-flyers this season, starting 25 matches and scoring eight tries in all competitions.

Calladine, 23, who signed his first professional contract with the club at the start of the campaign, has been a revelation since returning from a spell with Linwood in the powerful Canterbury Metropolitan competition in New Zealand last summer.

So much so, that the Mansfield product captained Nottingham in the final regular season fixture against Leeds after also skippering the side for the British and Irish Cup quarter final at Newcastle.

“They have both done an extremely good job this season,” Haag said. “You only need to look at Tom captaining the side a few times in the last couple of weeks to see that he has done a great job for us.

“Alex started really well and has continued that throughout the season. I hope to see more of the same in the play-offs and moving forward.”

From The Papers

Nottingham Post: Nottingham Bring In New Fly-Half And Second Row

NOTTINGHAM Rugby have announced two further signings that will join their squad in whichever division the club are playing next season.

The Championship side have now moved to also bring in second row Neilus Keogh and fly-half Matthew Jarvis.

The new pair will fill the void left by Nic Rouse and James Arlidge – who are leaving to join London Irish and to go back home to New Zealand respectively.

Welshman Jarvis is joining from Irish side Connacht, having signed from Ospreys before this, and has played in 21 Rabo 12 fixtures and three European Cup clashes over the last two seasons.

Irishman Keogh, meanwhile, has been playing his rugby in Italy for Lazio for the past season and before that was with Lansdowne RFC for three years and also had a training contract with Leinster.

Full Story www.thisisnottingham.co.uk

Plymouth Albion

Plymouth AlbionPlymouth Albion Skipper Ruairi Cushion Signs New Deal

Plymouth Albion skipper Ruairi Cushion has signed a new one year contract.

29 year old Cushion, who has played for Albion at both scrum half and fly half, will be starting his fifth season at Brickfields.

Irishman Cushion, who has played 93 league games for Albion, will be combining playing with studying, as he is midway through a physiotherapy course he is doing at Plymouth University.

Cushion looking ahead to next season said, “I’m delighted to be have signed a contract to play for Albion for what will be my fifth season. Earlier this season I did think that I might retire and concentrate on my degree course, but quickly put that idea on the back burner.

Dean Richards“With James Shanahan (left) coming in as Albion’s new Head Coach and a number of new players coming to the club there are exciting times ahead at Brickfields.”

Cushion, who took over the captaincy from Canadian international Sean-Michael Stephen midway through this season added,

“Taking over from Sean-Michael shortly after Christmas had a positive impact on my game, but I do have to thank conditioning coach James Owen who has got me in really good shape and I feel I’m playing well.”

From The Papers

Plymouth Herald: Armitage And Roberts Join List Of Plymouth Albion Departures

The pair join Aaron Carpenter, Sam Hocking, Wayne Sprangle, Jack Andrew, Paul Bailey, Keni Fisilau, Rupeni Nasiga, Jon Vickers and Rhodri McAtee in leaving Brickfields this summer.

Bevon Armitage, who was recently voted the Albion players' player of the season, has started all but two league games for the club in the last two years.

However, despite being virtually ever present since moving to Plymouth from Moseley in 2011, the 30-year-old has been released by Albion, who look like they are going to basically have a whole new team next term under James Shanahan.

Fly-half Paul Roberts, 23, also does not figure in Albion's plans for 2013/14. He, like Armitage featured, in 20 of Albion's 22 league matches this season and was the club's top points scorer.

Full  Story www.thisisplymouth.co.uk

Rotherham Titans

Rotherham Titans Titans Recruit Aussie Fly Half Dallan Murphy

Rotherham Titans have announce an addition to their squad, with former Queensland Reds fly half Dallan Murphy penning a deal for the 2013-14 season.

Twenty four year-old Murphy has 4 caps to his name and was described by Reds coach Ewen McKenzie as, “Our next-best ball-player outside Quade Cooper."

Titans Head Coach Lee Blackett added: “Dallan is a high quality fly half; unfortunately for him when he was in the Super 15 squad at Queensland Reds he was behind Quade Cooper and there’s not many 10’s that are going to get in ahead of him.

We are very excited about what Dallan can bring to the Rotherham set-up.”