Photo: Cornwall celebrate their latest Cup win at Twickenham
Many of us have questioned the wisdom of those who occupy the ivory towers of the RFU at Twickenham over the years, often with good reason, so it will come as no surprise that those concerns are raised again as the ‘draw’ for next season’s Bill Beaumont Cup is released.
There were inklings at the end of the last campaign that changes were afoot!
Despite finish bottom of the pool, many of the Surrey lads believed they would not be relegated as changes were due. Devon too felt they would be involved in the top-tier despite missing out in their Division 2 battle with Kent.
Both camps were correct in their assumptions.
The Bill Beaumont Cup will see twelve sides challenging for the cup. This is a welcome step to see more counties involved. They will be split six each into North and South. However, rather than increase the number of games, the RFU have come up with a cunning plan! Let’s replicate the LV Cup, draw the sides into groups of three and then play their counterparts in either the North or the South, with the side with the best overall results from each geographical area advancing to the final.
Relegation will be decided over two seasons so that each county plays the same number of games at home and away.
As you can see from below Cornwall are drawn in a group with Gloucestershire and Kent but will play each of the counties drawn in the other southern group namely Surrey, Devon and Hertfordshire. It is feasible that a county having won all their games could be pipped by another county who win all their games with a better record without having a chance to play that county!
For Cornwall, seeking a third consecutive title, the road is not an easy one. They start with two away trips at Surrey on May 6 and then in Devon on May 13 before hosting Hertfordshire on May 20. The final will be on the 28th May at Twickenham.
The new format also causes disruption in the North with both Lancashire and Yorkshire drawn in the same pool, so no “Roses Match” in next season’s competition.
Cheshire, last season’s finalists, will have to face both the Roses counties plus East Midlands, with crucially two games at home and a trip to Yorkshire to overcome.
There must also be doubt about Cornwall’s traditional warm up game as it would seem unlikely that Cornwall would wish to play Devon prior to the Championship.