Bouncebackability: Tom May will be hoping he can lead London Welsh back to the promised land at the first time of asking

Bounce back: Tom May will be hoping he can lead London Welsh back to the promised land at the first time of asking

THE CHAMPIONSHIP season is finally here, arriving just a week after the Aviva Premiership kicked off.

With Ealing jumping up to the division and London Welsh dropping down, clubs running out of money or securing plans for a new home, it is all go. Predictable? Probably not, but we’ve given a rundown a go. Look at our team-by-team guide to see where we think everyone will finish once the dust has settled.


Bedford Blues

Last season: 3rd

Head coach: Mike Rayer

Highly-rated prop Nico Steenkamp returns after a season at Coventry, while a Saracens trio have signed up, including centre Sam Stanley, nephew of All Black great Joe.

 Prediction: 3rd


Leading the charge: Andy Robinson

Leading the charge: Andy Robinson


Last season: 5th

Head coach: Sean Holley

Andy Robinson is the man to reawaken Bris in their 125th anniversary season. Fly-half Nicky Robinson is the biggest name among a clutch of arrivals from the Premiership.

 Prediction: Champions

Cornish Pirates

Last season: 6th

Head coach: Ian Davies

Kiwi fly-half Jonny Bentley has signed for Gloucester, but No 8 Aaron Carpenter and wing Matt Evans are raring to go after helping Canada to a famous win over Fiji in June.

 Prediction: 5th


Last season: National One winners

Head coach: Ben Ward

After winning promotion with 20 points to spare, DoR Mike Cudmore has spent the summer bringing in 17 new faces, including six players on loan from Quins and Wasps.

 Prediction: 10th


Last season: 11th

Head coach: Ben Harvey

Tonga hooker Elvis Taione and Wales Sevens scrum-half Nicky Griffiths must lead from the front for the Channel Islanders, who are captained by ex-Wasps lock Alex Rae.

 Prediction: 12th

London Scottish

Last season: 8th

Head coach: TBA

All the Exiles are full-time now and they hope to climb to the top. They were in Hong Kong this summer, where they coached children and watched the Lions. Have lost their coach Simon Amor to the England Sevens, but have made some shrewd signings.

 Prediction: 6th

London Welsh

Last season: 12th in Premiership

Head coach: Justin Burnell

They’re staying at the Kassam but bouncing back is a tall order for a new coach who’s seen lots of players depart. Gordon Ross is backs coach and Tom May the team captain.

 Prediction: Runners-up


Leeds Carnegie

Last season: 4th

Head coach: James Lowes

Ex-Leeds Rhinos coach Lowes has switched codes, with  the brief to take Carnegie back to the top flight. Influential back-row Rob Baldwin has extended his contract.

 Prediction: 4th


The prize (beside Premiership rugby)

The prize (beside Premiership rugby)


Last season: 10th

Head coach: Kevin Maggs

Andy Robinson’s 20-year-old son, Olly, who has England U18 honours, packs down at openside. In the backs, much will be expected of Simon Hunt, an England Sevens star.

 Prediction: 9th


Last season: 2nd

Head coach: Martin Haag
Lack of finance has forced Haag to cut his playing staff from 30 to 23. Tim Streather, Championship Player of the Year last term, has signed for Saracens. May struggle a little.

 Prediction: 7th


Last season: 9th

Head coach: James Shanahan

All change at Albion after a player influx and new-look coaching team headed by Shanahan and forwards coach Rhys Oakley. Pale Nonu, brother of Ma’a, has signed up.

 Prediction: 11th


Last season: 7th

Head coach: Lee Blackett

Ex-Titans captain Blackett says his ambition is to see passion every week. Former Falcons Micky Ward and Ed Williamson will help coach and fans’ favourite Alfie To’oala returns after a ten-year gap.

 Prediction: 8th 

To read an exclusive interview with Bristol’s Director of Rugby, Andy Robinson, check out the October issue of Rugby World – Out now!