The future of English Rugby will be on-show for all to see in this season’s Greene King IPA Championship according to the RFU’s Director of Professional Rugby Nigel Melville.
All 12 of the clubs involved in this year’s competition, the second tier of English Rugby, were welcomed to Twickenham to launch the 2017/18 season on Monday.
Bristol Rugby return to the Championship following relegation from the Premiership with Hartpury College the other new side after promotion from National League One.
The two new sides meet on the opening day of the season, while last year’s beaten finalists Yorkshire Carnegie travel to London Scottish.
And Melville is confident the competition, which has removed the end-of-season play-offs for the coming season, will be as competitive as ever in 2017/18.
“It’s a balance, you want old veterans and you want your young players in there, it brings life to the competition because people want to watch these young guys play,” Melville explained.
“Everyone likes to watch the future and the Championships is where the future is and I think that’s a great opportunity (for the young players).
“It’s the same for referees, our younger referees are there who aspire to be in the Premiership just like the younger players are.
“It’s about development evolving players for England getting the young guys into the environment and the same for referees.
“It’s a very competitive league and this year is going to be incredibly exciting.”
At the Twickenham launch, the RFU confirmed that they have renewed their partnership with Greene King IPA to sponsor the league for a further three seasons.
The Championship has adopted a new strapline, ‘Raising The Game’ and a new website for the competition is set to be launched prior to the first fixtures in September.
The RFU have also committed to live stream up to ten games during the season in addition to the 11 games that official broadcaster Sky Sports are set to show.
And Melville hopes that an increased digital presence for the competition will help build a brand new fan base for the Greene King IPA Championship.
“It’s a bit surprising there hasn’t been a website, we’re in a digital era,” he admitted. “I think raising standards all around, on and off the field, is really important for the competition.
“It’s an opportunity to get our product in front of our fans, to get them engaged with the website and get involved them with the Championship rather than going through third parties.
“It’s a great opportunity for us, I think the streaming will be strong and getting the content out there so people can watch these great games because there’s some fantastic stuff on show.
“I love this time of year all the coaches are positive, the players are positive, no referees had a bad game and it’s all very exciting and this year it’s very competitive.
“From our point of view the new look and feel we’ve brought to the Championship, new teams and new faces, that’s very exciting.”
The Greene King IPA Championship is the second tier of professional rugby in England. To keep up to date with the latest news and features follow @ChampRugby on Twitter