BRITISH & IRISH CUP PREVIEW
Rotherham Titans, alongside the other 11 Greene King IPA Championship sides take a break from league action this week, as attention turns to the cup. Below is the RFU preview ahead of this weekends round 1 fixtures.
Greene King IPA Championship newcomers Ealing Trailfinders, who are without a win in four league matches and have conceded over 200 points in the process, face a daunting introduction to British & Irish Cup rugby after being drawn away to reigning champions Leinster ‘A’ in the opening round of the 2013/14 competition, (kick off 14:30 at Donnybrook)
Leinster’s second string beat Newcastle in extra-time to lift last year’s trophy and will be amongst the favourites to claim the silverware once again in what is the fifth staging of the cross-border competition. Joining Leinster and Ealing Trailfinders in Pool 1 are former finalists Cross Keys and Moseley, who meet each other at Pandy Park on Saturday. Cross Keys, who are one of four sides to have qualified from Wales via the new regional play-off system, will be hoping for a repeat of their meeting with Moseley two years ago, which they won 42-3.
In Pool 2, London Welsh play Championship rivals London Scottish at Monks Lane, Newbury. Welsh scored five tries on their way to a comfortable 44-9 victory when the sides last met in the B&I Cup in September 2011. Current Principality Welsh Premiership champions and former B&I Cup semi-finalists Pontypridd travel to Scotland to play Edinburgh Academicals.
Bedford Blues face a rematch with Llanelli, the side they beat in last season’s quarter-finalists, after being drawn together in Pool 3. However the sides are kept apart on the opening weekend with the Blues up against Rotherham Titans at Clifton Lane while Llanelli welcome Connacht Eagles to West Wales. The Titans have only played Bedford once before in cup competition, losing 21-31 in the old EDF Energy National Trophy in January 2007.
A first-ever B&I Cup tie between Plymouth Albion and Nottingham Rugby gets the action underway in Pool 4 at Brickfields on Friday evening. The following day former winners Munster ‘A’ take on Stirling County at Bandon RFC, County Cork.
A late Jason Strange penalty earned Bristol a 13-all draw against Leeds in the 2006/07 EDF Energy Cup: the last time these two in-form sides played each other in any form of cup competition. Bristol celebrated their 125th anniversary in style on Sunday with a third straight bonus-point Championship victory over Bedford, while Leeds made it three wins on the bounce by thrashing Ealing Trailfinders. Gala and Aberavon, who beat Ospreylian rivals Swansea in the play-offs to get through to this stage of the B&I Cup, complete the line-up in Pool 5.
Inaugural B&I Cup champions Cornish Pirates begin with a first-ever B&I Cup fixture against Ulster Ravens at the Mennaye Field on Friday night. The Pirates have a won two, lost two record against Irish opposition, their most famous success coming against Munster ‘A’ in the 2010 final. Ulster got to the semi-final that year – their best performance in the competition to date. Jersey will be looking to improve on last year’s showing in the B&I Cup when they finished last in Pool 5 with just one win to their name. The Channel Islanders kick off with a Saturday afternoon tie at home to Scottish side Ayr.
Friday October 11
Plymouth Albion v Nottingham Rugby (KO 19.45pm)
Cornish Pirates v Ulster Ravens (KO 19.45pm)
Saturday October 12
Llanelli v Connacht Eagles (KO 1400)
Leinster A v Ealing Trailfinders (KO 14.30)
London Welsh v London Scottish (KO 14.30)
Cross Keys v Moseley (KO 15.00)
Edinburgh Academicals v Pontypridd (KO 15.00)
Jersey v Ayr (KO 15.00)
Rotherham Titans v Bedford Blues (KO 15.00)
Munster A v Stirling County (KO 17.00)
Gala v Aberavon (KO 19.00)
Sunday October 13
Bristol Rugby v Leeds Carnegie (KO 15.00)