RFU Championship News

March 8th

RFU Championship News


RFU Championship News

RFU ChampionshipTeams & Previews

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

RFU Championship Rd 18

Friday March 8
Bristol v Nottingham, KO 19:45
Newcastle Falcons v Bedford Blues, KO 20:00

Saturday March 9
Doncaster Knights v Rotherham Titans, KO 14:30
Plymouth Albion v Jersey, KO 15:00

Sunday March 10
Cornish Pirates v Moseley, KO 13:15 LIVE ON PIRATES TV
Leeds Carnegie v London Scottish, KO 15:00

Bristol v Nottingham - Friday 19:45

Bristol RugbyNottinghamBristol v Nottingham 
The Memorial Ground
Friday March 8
Kick Off 7:45pm

Live On
BBC Radio Bristol


Fourth take on third at the Memorial Stadium tonight.

Liam Middleton keeps faith with the same starting line up that saw off Bedford at Goldington Road, with Ruki Tipuna remaining as captain.

George Watkins and Jack Tovey – both of whom signed new deals earlier this week – are named in the backline.

Luke Eves continues his impressive record of starting every RFU Championship clash this season when the high-flying Green & Whites visit the West Country.

In the only change to the 22-man squad, Gaston Cortes comes onto the replacement bench in place of Ben Mosses, as Middleton reverts to a five forwards and two backs split.

Bristol Rugby
Jack Tovey; George Watkins, Fautua Otto, Luke Eves, Ryan Edwards
Adrian Jarvis, Ruki Tipuna (c); Kyle Traynor, Ross Johnston, Wayne Thompson
Mariano Sambucetti, Glen Townson, Marco Mama, Redford Pennycook, Mitch Eadie.

Rhys Lawrence, Bruce Douglas, Gaston Cortes, Ben Glynn, James Merriman, James Grindal, Tristan Roberts.


Nottingham lock Dan Montagu returns from injury to make his first trip back to the Memorial Stadium since joining the Green and Whites from Bristol in the summer.

The 120kg Australian slots back into the second-row ahead of Joe Quinn who moves to the replacements bench, and is one of three changes made to the tight five for tonight’s match.

Jonny Harris comes in at loosehead prop with Matt Parr failing to fully recover from a heavy leg knock sustained in last week’s 30-22 win over Plymouth. It is a new-look front row with seasoned campaigner Michael Holford back in the starting XV at tighthead.

Tim Streather has been named in the centres after missing last week’s win through injury. The 24-year-old partners Joe Munro with Joe Cobden moving to the bench.

Nottingham recorded a remarkable 63-7 win over the Bris when the sides first met at Meadow Lane in November.

But Green and Whites head coach Martin Haag stressed: “That is water under the bridge.

“We don’t look back at previous results. We caught Bristol a little bit cold and we also played some exceptional rugby both in attack and defence, but that was a long time ago now.

"For us, it will be about trying to perform like that again and giving ourselves every chance of getting a result.

“Look at their form and who they have played recently and they will be confident – their play is certainly more confident

“It will be a good battle for us and a test of where we are. Our challenge is to stay in the top four and that is ultimately what we will be aiming for.

Nottingham Rugby
15 David Jackson 14 Alex Lewington 13 Tim Streather 12 Joe Munro
11 Ryan Hough 10 James Arlidge 9 Sean Romans
1 Jonny Harris 2 Joe Duffey 3 Michael Holford 4 Dan Montagu
5 Nic Rouse 6 Rupert Cooper 7 Brent Wilson 8 Alex Shaw.

16 Shaun Malton 17 Ryan Bower 18 Joe Quinn 19 Tom Calladine 20 Finlay Barnham 21 Joe Cobden 22 Andy Forsyth

What The Papers Say

Bristol Post: Players don't need reminding about humiliation at Nottingham

LIAM Middleton has no plans to remind his players of their November humiliation at Nottingham before this evening's return match – because he knows they will already be thinking about it.

Middleton said: "I think my job as a coach has been to focus them on what they need to do."I haven't mentioned the previous Nottingham game, because I know it's there and they know it's there.

"It's in the players' minds and they'll express that emotion on the pitch. The key thing is that we can direct that emotion into the right channels that allow us to be effective in winning the game.

Full Story www.thisisbristol.co.uk

Newcastle Falcons v Bedford Blues - Friday 20:00

Newcastle FalconsBedford BluesNewcastle v Bedford  
Kingston Park
Friday March 8
Kick Off 8pm

Live On
BBC Newcastle
BBC Three Counties Radio

Newcastle Falcons

Noah Cato is set to make his Newcastle Falcons debut in tonights’ showdown with Bedford Blues at Kingston Park.

Cato replaces Andrew Higgins on the wing, while Kieran Brookes returns to the Falcons fold for his second spell with the club, and is named amongst the replacements.

The Falcons have made two further changes with Jonny Golding getting the nod at loose-head and Jimmy Gopperth coming in at fly-half.

“We are looking forward to the game and hopefully the rain holds off as both us and Bedford like playing attacking rugby,” said Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards.

He added: “Bedford have a quality scrum-half in Luke Baldwin and at fly-half they have Jake Sharp so they will be a threat at half-back.

“They also have some talent in the outside backs, so it will be interesting to see how we do, and I’m really looking forward to Friday’s match.”

Friday’s clash marks the return of Brookes, who graduated from the Falcons academy before making the switch to Leicester Tigers ahead of the 2011-12 season.

Richards is delighted to have him back, saying: “Kieran gives us strength in depth in the pack and he is a quality scrummager, a good ball carrier and a mobile prop who has great potential.

“He didn’t quite hit it off at Leicester and as a consequence he has joined us on a dual registration contract.

“There’s no doubt that Leicester may want to recall him for the odd weekend, but in the main he is with us until the end of the season.”

Brookes himself is pleased to be back in the North East where his professional career took off to attract suitors such as Leicester.

“It’s awesome to be back and I absolutely love it up here in the North East, and Newcastle gave me my break when I was 18 so it’s nice to be back,” said Brookes.

“I’m just going to play my hardest and do as much as I can to help the Falcons achieve promotion back to the Premiership,” added the England Saxon front-rower.

Newcastle Falcons:
15 Tom Catterick, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Michael Tait, 12 Jamie Helleur
11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Rory Lawson,
1 Jonny Golding, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Scott MacLeod,
5 James Hudson, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg

16 Michael Mayhew, 17 Kieran Brookes, 18 Sean Tomes, 19 Taiasina Tu’ifua,
20 Warren Fury, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 Alex Crockett

Bedford Blues

Darren Fox is set to lead out Bedford Blues against Newcastle tonight after club captain James Pritchard was ruled out of the remainder of the season with a broken arm.

Pritchard picked up the injury during the final stages of last Saturday’s defeat to fourth placed Bristol. The Canadian international had an X-ray after the game which confirmed the clean break before having an operation on Sunday.

Despite the loss of their captain, the Blues are looking to bounce back against the runaway league leaders as they look to book themselves a spot in the top four.

The injury to Pritchard means that Brendan Burke gets the nod at fullback while Josh Bassett returns to the wing in place of Mark Kohler.

There is a change in the half-backs with Darryl Veenendaal and Myles Dorrian starting ahead of Luke Baldwin and Jake sharp while the scrum will be propped up by former Falcon Darren Fearn and Ben Cooper with Chris Locke hooking.

Bedford Blues
15. Brendan Burke 14. James Stephenson 13. Ollie Dodge 12. Mark Atkinson
11. Josh Bassett 10. Myles Dorrian 9. Darryl Veenendaal
1. Darren Fearn 2. Chris Locke 3. Ben Cooper 4. Mike Howard
5. Ben Gulliver 6. Gregor Gillanders 7. Darren Fox (c) 8. Don Barrell

16. Neil Cochrane, 17. Dan Seal, 18. Ricky Reeves, 19. Paul Tupai
20. Joe Vandermolen, 21. Luke Baldwin, 22. Jake Sharp.

What The Papers Say

Bedford Today, Michael Hann: Blues must get used to Pritch absence

Bedford Blues will have to get used to life without captain James Pritchard ahead of their table-topping encounter with Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park on Friday night.

Pritchard, who has scored 182 Championship points this season, suffered a broken arm against Bristol on Saturday and will now face a spell on the sidelines.

Reacting to the news Bedford director or rugby Mike Rayer said: “It’s potentially season-ending.

“There is an outside chance he could pick up a game or two at the back end of the season, but a lot depends on what we do between now and April 20.”

Full Story www.bedfordtoday.co.uk

Doncaster Knights v Rotherham Titans - Saturday 14:30

Doncaster KnightsRotherham Titans Doncaster v Rotherham 
Castle Park
Saturday 8 March
Kick Off 2:30pm

Doncaster Knights

Clive Griffiths has made just one change to the Doncaster starting line up, ahead of the massive South Yorkshire derby against Rotherham Titans at Castle Park tomorrow.

In the Knights final game of the Yorkshire Regiment Trophy this season, influential prop Tom Davies returns after serving his suspension in the only change to the starting 15 from last week’s disappointing 23-9 defeat at Moseley.

Davies returns at loose-head in place of Brian McGovern, who takes his place on the substitute’s bench. He is partnered in the front row by Rhys Buckley and tight-head prop Jerry Cronin.

Captain Matt Challinor starts in the second-row against his former Club, where he is once again joined by Dominic Parsons.

Adam Kettle, Will Hafu and Chris Planchant continue their back row partnership against Rotherham after impressing in recent weeks.

In the backs, Will Sharp remains at outside centre, after the former rugby league player showed glimpses of his quality at Billesley Common last week. Sharp, who went so close to scoring a debut try last week, is once again partnered in the centres by Tom Luke, whilst Joe Bedford and Jamie Lennard continue their blossoming half back partnership.

On the bench former Titans second row Dan Smith returns, whilst Chris Hallam and Dante Mama will hope to add some vigour to the back line in the second half.

Doncaster Knights
15. Connor Braid 14. Michael Keating 13. Will Sharp 12. Tom Luke
11. Tyson Lewis 10. Jamie Lennard  9. Joe Bedford
1. Tom Davies 2. Rhys Buckley 3. Jerry Cronin 4. Matt Challinor
5. Dominic Parsons 6. Adam Kettle 7. Will Hafu 8. Chris Planchant

16. Andy Brown 17.Ben Sowery 18. Brian McGovern 19. Dan Smith
20. Andy Boyde 21. Chris Hallam 22. Dante Mama

Rotherham Titans

Yorkshire Regiment TrophyRotherham Titans travel the short distance to near-neighbours Doncaster Knights this Saturday, as they attempt to secure a league ‘double’ and maintain their challenge for the inaugural Yorkshire Regiment Trophy.

Rotherham go into the derby clash on the back of an outstanding effort against runaway league leaders Newcastle Falcons, where the Titans looked like causing a major upset when getting to within 6 points of the Falcons late on in the game, before two late penalties settled Newcastle’s nerves and the result.

Titans Alex Codling has made just two changes to his starting fifteen for the trip to Castle Park, both of which are in the pack. Prop Marshall Gadd gets the nod in place of Jamie Kilbane, whilst Alex Rieder comes in at number 8 for Toby Freeman who picked up a dead-leg against Newcastle.

Rotherham have won the last three encounters against their fierce local rivals, including the corresponding fixture last season 14-15, where Titans skipper Garry Law snatched victory with the last kick of the match in front of the Sky Sports cameras. However, the overall league head to head sees Knights hold a healthy 11-6 advantage.

Ahead of the South Yorkshire clash Alex Codling explained, “I was delighted with the effort and performance the boys put in against Newcastle last week; the fact that we only had to make 9 tackles in the second half really highlights the control and possession we enjoyed against the best team in the division.

The resolve and determination to get back to 22-28 late in the game was outstanding, with the boys demonstrating a huge amount of determination, pride and no shortage of skill. The real disappointment for me was the fact we didn’t pick up two points that I felt we deserved on the day.

“This week the spirit in the camp has been good ahead of our derby match against Doncaster. Local derbies always have an extra edged to them, it’s a big day for the supporters and the players recognise that. I think the key for us is to transfer the form we showed in the second half against Bristol and the last 50 minutes against Newcastle – the two form teams in the league – to make sure we get over the line and get the points. But we know it’s going to be a huge challenge against a side that are desperate for the points.

“Doncaster are a good side and there’s no doubt about that. If you saw them last time out against Moseley; in the first half they controlled a huge amount of territory and possession, but they just couldn’t convert that into points and the score line doesn’t really reflect how they played.

“Doncaster has a very abrasive pack, their back row is very combative and in Matt Challinor they have an outstanding player who has led from the front. They have Joe Bedford at nine which Rotherham knows all about; he has loads of experience and composure.

The centre partnership of Will Sharp and Tom Luke gives them some real go-forward in the middle of the park and they are a danger, whilst Will Hafu at number 7 is an outstanding player who has plenty of speed and great footwork. So, we are acutely aware of the challenge that Doncaster will present.

“However, we know if we play like we did against Newcastle for the last 50 minutes, we’ll beat any side in the division. We just need to make sure that’s the level we play at for the remainder of the season.”

15 Garry Law (Capt.), 14 Mike Doneghan, 13 Eamonn Sheridan, 12 Pale Nonu
11 Curtis Wilson, 10 James McKinney, 9 Charlie Mulchrone
1 Marshall Gadd, 2 Ted Stagg, 3 Gareth Denman, 4 Ben Thomas
5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Latu Makaafi, 7 Carl Kirwan, 8 Alex Rieder.

16 Harry Hannan, 17 Ross Davies, 18 Jamie Kilbane, 19 Neale Patrick
20 Laurence Pearce, 21 Lee Blackett, 22 Jimmy Williams.

Other News

Titans Head Coach Alex Codling Resigns

Alex CodlingRotherham Titans announced on Wednesday  that Head Coach Alex Codling will leave the club at the end of the current Championship campaign for personal reasons.

Alex will continue to lead the squad, assist in the re-building for next season and continue the excellent work he has undertaken at the club both on and off the field.

Titans Director of Rugby, Martin Jenkinson said, “Alex Codling has been a breath of fresh air.

“In the short time he has been here, he has taken our playing set-up to a completely new level and we are already seeing the benefits.

“It is a great shame that the logistics involved mean that Alex is unable to continue travelling.

“We as a club intend to build on the foundations that Alex has in a short time put down.”

Plymouth Albion v Jersey - Saturday 15:00

Plymouth AlbionJersey RugbyPlymouth Albion v Jersey 
Saturday 8 March
Kick Off 3pm

Live On
BBC Radio Jersey

Plymouth Albion

Declan Cusack will make his first Plymouth Albion start tomorrow when they welcome Jersey to Brickfields for the first time.

The former Munster back joined Albion last week from Spanish side Bizkaia Gernika and made his debut as a late replacement at Nottingham five days ago.

Tomorrow he is handed a starting berth, lining up at full-back in the crucial Championship match.

Albion are desperate to win their penultimate home fixture, as not only will it end an eight-match losing run for them but it will also virtually guarantee Championship rugby for another season.

“This is a massive game for the club to win,” said head coach Nat Saumi. “The players know how important it is and they are looking forward to it.”

However, second-from-bottom Jersey will also be desperate to win the game to help them in their bid for Championship survival.

Albion make three changes to their team that lost 30-22 at Nottingham last weekend.

As well as Cusack coming into the starting line-up, Albion also recall club record holder Keni Fisilau and prop Jack Andrew.

Lewis Warner, Tom Bowen and David Morton drop to the bench, where they will be joined by fit-again back-row forward Herbie Stupple.

15 Declan Cusack 14 Toby Howley-Berridge 13 Keni Fisilau 12 Bevon Armitage
11 Rhodri McAtee 10 Paul Roberts 9 Ruairi Cushion (capt)
1 Jack Andrew 2 Jon Vickers 3 Lloyd Fairbrother 4 Brett Beukeboom
5 Harrison Tovey 6 Sean-Michael Stephen 7 Sam Hocking 8 Aaron Carpenter

16 Paul Rowley 17 Tom Cowan-Dickie 18 David Morton 19 Sam Matavesi
20 Herbie Stupple 21 Lewis Warner 22 Tom Bowen


Director of Rugby Ben Harvey saw enough green shoots in the defeat to London Scottish to resist major changes to his squad for the trip to Devon for the match with Plymouth Albion.

There are two changes to the starting pack for the Islanders, with hooker Dave Felton coming in to replace Charlie Clare and flanker Kingsley Lang returning in place of Fred Silcock. Silcock and Clare are among Jersey's replacements.

In the three-quarters, new signing Mark McCrea has a minor calf strain and so Mark Foster, another February signing - on loan from Exeter - switches to centre with Donovan Sanders added to the mix.

"There are some difficult calls in selection with a number of players putting their hands up and making the selection part of my job difficult," said Harvey. "But that's what you want at this stage of the season, everyone is driving each other forward and that should leave us well-prepared for the challenge of Plymouth."

The match pits a side who have yet to win away from home this season - Jersey - against a home team whose last Championship win was on the second weekend of November. At the start of November, the two sides met at St Peter, Jersey winning 16-14.

Jersey's side includes lock Nathan Hannay, who learned his rugby at Honiton RFC and subsequently played for Sidmouth. Hannay will be making his first appearance in his home county since turning professional in 2009/10.

1 Sean McCarthy 2 Dave Felton 3 Jon Brennan 4 Nathan Hannay
5 Dave Markham 6 Charlie Walker-Blair 7 Kingsley Lang 8 Guy Thompson
9 Nicky Griffiths (capt) 10 Michael Le Bourgeois 11 Ed Dawson
12 Mark Foster 13 Max Stelling 14 Donovan Sanders 15 Barry Davies

Richard Barrington, Charlie Clare,  James, Gethings,  Rob Anderson
Fred Silcock, Dave McCormack, Glenn Bryce

Cornish Pirates v Moseley - Sunday 13:15

Cornish PiratesMoseleyCornish Pirates v Moseley 
Mennaye Field
Sunday March 10
Kick Off 1:15pm


Cornish Pirates

The Kick off for this game is 1:15pm in order to show England v Italy (KO 3pm) on a specially erected big screen in the Pirates Marquee bar.

The Pirates welcome back skipper and scrum-half Gavin Cattle to the starting line-up alongside Aaron Penberthy as his half-back partner.

Tom Bedford also comes back into the side forming the midfield duo with Tom Riley.

Gary Johnson will again partner former 'Mose' player David Lyons in the second-row, whilst up front Ryan Storer and Peter Joyce are the propping pair.

Hooker Will Tanner will make his debut for the Pirates, having joined the club on a dual-registration agreement with Bath Rugby and there's a place on the bench for scrum-half Chris Cook, who has been similarly signed.

Cornish Pirates:
15 Grant Pointer, 14 Ashley Smith, 13 Tom Riley, 12 Tom Bedford, 11 Matt Evans
10 Aaron Penberthy, 9 Gavin Cattle (capt), 8 Kyle Marriott, 7 Alex Cheesman, 6 Phil Burgess
5 Gary Johnson, 4 David Lyons, 3 Peter Joyce, 2 Will Tanner, 1 Ryan Storer.

Ben Prescott, Rob Elloway, Darren Barry, James Tyas, Chris Cook, Keiran Hallett, Wes Davies.

Match Officials
Referee: Ross Campbell (RFU)
Assistants: Dean Richards & Simon McConnell


15 Ollie Thomas 14 Simon Hunt 13 Greg King 12 Anthony Carter
11 Billy Robinson 10 Glyn Hughes 9 Ryan Glynn
8 Ben Pienaar 7 Ben Pons 6 Neil Mason 5 Buster Lawrence
4 Addison Lockley 3 Ben Evans 2 Sam Wilkes 1 Ethan Waller

16 Tom Warren 17 Matt Williams 18 Mike Powell 19 Sam Dickinson
20 Olly Robinson 21 Sam Brown 22 Brad Davies

What The Papers Say

Birmingham Mail, Brian Dick:

Ollie Thomas: "We're going down there with a bit of confidence."

Ollie Thomas has known both sides of a Cornish Pirates-Moseley relationship that can only be described as consistent in the most bizarre fashion.

Pirates will be happier than usual to return to the security of their South West stronghold, having covered 1,700 miles in their last two outings to Otley and Kingston Park.

This weekend the motorway time belongs to Moseley, who will make the journey tomorrow in a bid to maximise their their chances of shoring up their decent position near the foot of the table.

Full Story www.birminghammail

Leeds Carnegie v London Scottish - Sunday 15:00

Leeds CarnegieLondon ScottishLeeds Carnegie v London Scottish 
Hull Ionians RFC
Sunday March 10
Kick Off 3pm

Leeds Carnegie

Leeds Carnegie Head Coach Diccon Edwards has made four changes to his side to face London Scottish at Hull Ionians on Sunday.

Winger Matt Clark has been ruled out through injury so Josh Griffin returns at outside centre with Oli Goss reverting to the wing. With Rory Clegg recalled by Harlequins to play in the LV Cup this weekend, Joe Ford returns at fly half.

The other two changes come in the forwards with Scott Freer starting a league game for the first time since a defeat a Plymouth last season on 29th January. The other change sees Chris Walker come in for Ryan Burrows, who is amongst the replacements.

Scrum half James Doherty has been ruled out after a late fitness test so Ollie Frost, who is on loan from Worcester has been named on the bench.

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

16. Joe Graham 17. Lee Imiolek 18. James Currie 19. Pierce Phillips
20. Ryan Burrows 21. Ollie Frost 22. Christian Georgiou

London Scottish

London Scottish have made four changes to their starting XV as they bid to extend their winning run to six games against Leeds Carnegie at Brantingham Park on Sunday.

PJ Gidlow comes into the midfield in place of Oli Grove, who was taken off with an injury during the 41-33 win over Jersey at the Athletic Ground last weekend.

There’s a return to the starting XV for winger David Howells after he made his comeback from injury as a replacement against Jersey. He comes onto the left wing in place of Miles Mantella.

Lewis Thiede comes into the side at tighthead prop in place of Eric Fry and Paul Spivey returns to the second row, having missed the win over Jersey.

Fry, Nic Mayhew and Harry Allen will provide front row cover from the bench, with Lewis Calder providing a back row option. Simon Whatling, on loan from London Welsh, is named as a replacement alongside scrum half Ross Samson and centre Dave McCall.

Director of Rugby Simon Amor said: “It’ll be a big challenge for us this weekend against a very talented Leeds side. We’ve picked up a number of injuries over the weekend just gone that has stretched our squad to the absolute limit but our team spirit is very good and if we perform to our potential then we can get a good result.”

London Scottish
15 Jim Thompson; 14 James Love, 13 PJ Gidlow, 12 Andy Reay
11 David Howells; 10 Phil Godman, 9 Richard Bolt
1 Mark Irish, 2 Adam Kwasnicki, 3 Lewis Thiede; 4 Paul Spivey
5 Tyler Hotson; 6 Ben Russell, 7 Chevvy Pennycook, 8 Mark Bright (c)

16 Nic Mayhew, 17 Harry Allen, 18 Eric Fry, 19 Lewis Calder
20 Ross Samson, 21 Simon Whatling, 22 Dave McCall

Other News

Leeds Full Back Stevie Mccoll Has Agreed A New One Year Contract Extension

McColl had been given permission to speak to other clubs with his contract expiring at the end of the season but he has decided to sign a new deal with the Yorkshire club. The 24-year-old had attracted attention from a number of Premiership clubs but has decided to stay at Headingley Carnegie.

Commenting on the news Leeds Carnegie Head Coach Diccon Edwards said, “We are delighted that Stevie has signed a new contract. We made no secret of the fact that we wanted to keep him here but we fully understand his need to explore the market with him about to start a new family with his wife, who is due to have twins anyday.

However, Stevie is excited about what we are doing here and I think that speaks volumes about the commitment within this group as he joins a number of players to have signed new contracts.”