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British & Irish Cup round one preview.

Championship action takes a three week recess as the British and Irish Cup kicks off this weekend. Last week Griff made a statement of intent for the competition as the Knights kick off their Cup campaign with a tricky looking tie away at Cross Keys. There have been a few amendments to the competition since the Knights last competed in 2012/13, for the first time there will be no Scottish representation in the cross-border competition, with 12 sides from Greene King IPA Championship competing against the A teams of the four Irish provinces and four Welsh Premiership sides, who have been selected on merit following the results of regional play-offs.
The quarter-finals will be made up of the five pool winners and the three best runners-up.

As mentioned the Knights will start their Cup challenge away at 2012’s beaten finalists Cross Keys. The Knights make the trip to the Valleys looking to make it three away wins on the trot. This will be the club’s first ever encounter between the two sides, the Knights previous best showing in the B&I Cup came in 2009/10 when they reached the semi-finals.

Their are nine other B&I Cup fixtures taking place this weekend, here is a quick preview of all the action.
Pool 1
Pontypridd v London Scottish, Saturday 11 October, KO 14:30
These sides met as recently as last season when both ties went the way of the home side. Scottish did well to leave Sardis Road with a losing bonus point, going down to a 27-20 defeat after playing the last hour with 14 men due to Neil Best’s red card. The Exiles got their revenge a week later when they beat the Welsh side, 26-21, in another tight game. Pontypridd have been Wales’ most consistent performer in the B&I Cup with two semi-final and one quarter-final appearance. London Scottish have never made it past the pool stages in three attempts.

Bristol Rugby v Connacht Eagles, Sunday 12 October, KO 15:00
This will be the first-ever competitive meeting between 2011 B&I Cup winners Bristol and Connacht, although Bristol did win a pre-season friendly in Galway 33-24, on 8 August, 2002. Bristol have reached the knockout stages on three occasions while Connacht have fallen at the first hurdle in their two tournament appearances. Bristol have yet to lose at Ashton Gate.

Pool 2
Yorkshire Carnegie v Rotherham Titans, Friday 10 October, KO 20:00
Yorkshire Carnegie take their opening game of the B&I Cup to the seaside, with Scarborough RUFC’s Silver Royd ground playing host to the fixture. These great Yorkshire rivals have met twice before in cup competition, with Carnegie winning on both occasions. The only B&I cup tie between the sides ended in a 17-3 home win for the Headingley-based outfit in September 2011. Both sides reached the knockout stages for the first time in 2013/14.

Aberavon v Ulster Ravens, Saturday 11 October, KO 14:30
Ulster put 62 points on Aberavon when they last met in the B&I Cup, in March 2010. The Ravens scored 31 unanswered points in each half and ran in 10 tries in total. Ulster have still to improve on their semi-final appearance at the inaugural tournament in 2009/10. Aberavon have played in all bar one of the five seasons of the B&I Cup but have never made it out of their pool.

Pool 3
Nottingham Rugby v Worcester Warriors, Sunday 12 October KO 15:00
Two weeks after being beaten 55-16 in the Championship, Nottingham get an early chance to turn the tables on Worcester in the first-ever B&I Cup tie between the sides. Competition ever-presents Nottingham have twice reached the quarter-finals while Worcester, in their one and only previous outing in 2010/11, made it to the last four before being beaten by Bedford.

Munster A v Moseley, Saturday 11 October, KO 15:00
Munster beat Moseley on their way to winning the B&I Cup in 2012, the Irish province coming away from Billesley Common with a 29-0 victory. Munster have only ever failed to make the knockout stages once, in 2010/11 – the same year that Moseley reached the quarter-finals for the only time in their history.

Pool 4
Cornish Pirates v Bedford Blues, Sunday 12 October KO 15:00
One of four all-Championship ties, Cornish Pirates v Bedford pits together two former B&I Cup finalists. Pirates became the inaugural winners when they beat Munster A in 2010, while the Blues lost narrowly to Bristol in the final a year later. The Blues’ last win on Cornish soil came on 31 March 2013, when Myles Dorrian contributed 21 of their points in a 26-18 victory.

Pool 5
Plymouth Albion v Leinster A, Saturday 11 October, KO 15:00
Plymouth made the quarter-finals for the first time in their history last season, a 41-21 defeat to Leeds Carnegie at Headingley ending their interest for another year. Albion could not have asked for a tougher start to the 2014/15 campaign than a visit from two-time winners Leinster. The sides have face each other in the pool stages twice before, Leinster winning both matches. They won 16-13 at Brickfields on 21 November, 2009 and 25-16 a year later in Dublin.

Jersey v Carmarthen Quins, Saturday 11 October, KO 15:00
Carmarthen Quins put up a good showing in their one and only appearance in the competition in 2012/13. The west Wales side won four out of their six pool fixtures that year and only missed out on a quarter-final place on points difference. Quins were runners-up in last year’s Welsh Premiership and look set for another good season after kicking off with four straight wins to lie second in the table. Jersey have won three, drawn one and lost eight matches since being welcomed into the B&I Cup fold.

Image courtesy of Kate Fisher

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