Fixtures for the tenth season of the Greene King IPA Championship season have today been confirmed alongside the announcement of a new domestic competition – the Championship Cup – which will come into action next season.
The Greene King IPA Championship will be played over 22 rounds, beginning 31 August-2 September and culminating on the last weekend of April next year.
Coventry secured their return to rugby’s second tier after eight years following a nine-try win at Caldy last season, putting them at the top of National League One with five games remaining. They will face Jersey Reds at home in the opening round.
After one season back in the top flight of English rugby, London Irish re-join the Greene King IPA Championship this season and will open their campaign against last season’s runners up Ealing Trailfinders.
Elsewhere in the competition, Bedford Blues who finished third last season will travel to Nottingham Rugby while Doncaster Knights will travel to the Cornish Pirates who also secured a top-four finish in 2017/18.
A London derby will see Richmond take on London Scottish at Richmond Athletic Ground and last season’s newcomers Hartpury RFC will host Yorkshire Carnegie in their opening game of their second season in the second tier.
Following the decision of the Championship clubs to withdraw from the British & Irish Cup at the end of last season, for the next two seasons clubs will compete in the Championship Cup which follows a league cup format and encourages local derbies.
For its inaugural season, teams will be split into three pools based on clubs’ geographic locations and will play across six rounds.
The pool stage fixtures are scheduled in one block and will be played before Christmas allowing clubs to focus on the Championship Cup consistently over a six week period.
The top two teams from each pool together with the two best runners up across the three pools will all proceed to the quarter-finals which will be followed by the semi-finals and a final which will take place in May next year.
Pool 1 comprises of Coventry, Doncaster Knights, Nottingham and Yorkshire Carnegie, in Pool 2 Ealing Trailfinders will face Jersey, London Scottish and Richmond while Bedford Blues, Cornish Pirates, Hartpury and London Irish will form Pool 3.
Greene King IPA Championship chairman Geoff Irvine commented: “We’re delighted to welcome Coventry and London Irish to the tenth season of the Greene King IPA Championship.
“The standard of rugby last season was excellent and the competition for the meritocracy money proved to be very successful in sustaining a high level of interest in the Championship throughout the season in the absence of the play-offs.
“The Championship Cup will add an additional layer of competition and will also reignite old local rivalries which we’re really excited to see unfold.”
“We’re looking forward to what promises to be another exciting season for the Greene King IPA Championship,” said RFU director of professional rugby, Nigel Melville.
“The introduction of the Championship Cup competition next season is a positive step forward for our tier two clubs. We worked closely with the clubs to develop a competition that would encourage exciting local derbies and also give the clubs more game time outside of the 22 Championship rounds, which in turn will strengthen the development opportunities and competition among clubs in this country.”
Click here to download a PDF of the Greene King IPA Championship and Championship Cup fixtures for the 2018/19 season.