2014/15 Greene King IPA Championship Round 1 preview
All eyes will be on the much-fancied Worcester Warriors and Bristol Rugby, particularly after they were paired together in the first round of fixtures of the of the Greene King IPA Championship.
However, the short history of the Greene King IPA Championship, now about to embark on its sixth season, tells us that the 'big two' will not have it all their own way over the next nine months and 22 rounds of regular season action.
All bar four of this season's 12 competing Championship clubs have graced the top division in English club rugby at one time or another since leagues began, and, without exception, they are capable of beating each other on their day. In Yorkshire Carnegie there is a new force to be reckoned with, too, the Headingley-based club having dropped Leeds from its title to embrace the whole of the White Rose County.
Nottingham Rugby v Bedford Blues, Friday September 5, KO 20:00
Both sides endured difficult campaigns in 2013/14, finishing 10th and 9th respectively. There was little to separate the sides in the head-to-head stakes either, with a narrow home win apiece. Matthew Jarvis' boot helped the Green & Whites to a 26-24 win at Meadow Lane while the Blues took the honours, 14-9, in the return fixture.
Doncaster Knights v Plymouth Albion, Saturday September 6, KO 14:30
Doncaster face Plymouth on their return to the Championship after a one-season absence. The Knights have beaten Albion seven times and lost only twice in league meetings at Castle Park, although the Devon outfit enjoyed 27-22 victory on their last visit to the ground in the 2012/13 season. In each of the last three seasons Plymouth have kicked off on a winning note.
London Scottish v Rotherham Titans, Saturday September 6, KO 15:00
For the fourth time in five seasons London Scottish and Rotherham meet on the opening weekend. This time last year two Tom Cruse tries and the accurate boot of Juan Pablo Socino helped the Titans leave the Athletic Ground with the narrowest of victories. That 24-23 win provided the perfect platform for the Titans to go on and enjoy their best season for 10 years. Rotherham made the play-offs at Scottish's expense and are currently on a three-game winning run over the Exiles.
Moseley v Jersey, Saturday September 6, KO 15:00
Matt Williams lit up an otherwise forward-orientated, arm wrestle the last time these sides met at Billesley Common, with a long-range try fit to win any game. Williams, who has now sped off to pastures new, struck just after the half-hour mark and Moseley held on for a dogged 10-3 win. Moseley have won all four previous Championship meetings.
Bristol Rugby v Worcester Warriors, Sunday September 7, KO 14:40 (Live on Sky Sports HD)
On Sunday, Ashton Gate is set to stage what should be a truly compelling first fixture as a Championship venue. New tenants Bristol and the visiting Warriors have both lost on the opening day for the past two seasons – a record they will be desperate to change south of the River Avon. Worcester have dominated recent games between the two, winning all four encounters when they last graced this level four years ago. Bristol's last win over the Warriors was a 37-18 win in the Premiership, on 29th March 2009. The game is being broadcast live on Sky Sports.
Cornish Pirates v Yorkshire Carnegie, Sunday September 7, KO 15:00
Yorkshire Carnegie start life with a long trip down to the South West for a game against Cornish Pirates. Carnegie ended a five-year wait for a win in the Duchy when they beat the Pirates 27-20 in last season's corresponding fixture. Carnegie will have to win on the opening day for the first time in six seasons if they are to repeat the trick and hand new head coach Gary Mercer a winning start.