A week is a long time in any sport, and in rugby, Craig Hammond’s Archers have seen a few changes since last week’s defeat away to Coventry – an RFU announcement, a club announcement, and preparation for Friday Night Lights at Lady Bay, Nottingham welcoming relegation-threatened London Scottish in the last game of the season.
Since their 66-0 drubbing away to Ealing Trailfinders at the beginning of March, Scottish were edged away to Caldy, then home to Doncaster Knights, before winning their last two outings, against Hartpury University, and Richmond.
It’s those two results which the Archers HC, Hammond, alludes to, and no doubt instilled into the minds of his players, since Nottingham lost, narrowly, to third place Coventry last time out.
“We’ve taken the positives out of it (Coventry), and built towards this Friday’s game against London Scottish, which is our last league game this season,” said Hammond, looking ahead to Scottish on Friday night.
“It’s a massive game, under the Friday Night Lights down at Lady Bay; they’ve come off a massive win at the weekend against Richmond (49-3 at home) and against a Hartpury the week before (22-12 away) so they’re pretty much on fire at the moment.
“This will be a great challenge for us, especially with a lot of Harlequins players playing for them, with the dual-relationship the two clubs have, so there’ll be some quality players out there, on the field.
“The focus will be on us really, so we need to make sure we put on a good show for our last game here, finish the season on a high, and take the opportunity to finish either seventh or eighth.
“We just needed to see how we’ve gone during the week, how we build towards this game.”
Meanwhile, Lady Bay’s finest have announced this week that some nine players will be departing the club once the season finishes.
Those departing are that of lock Callum Allen, centre Lewis Barrett, prop Ben Betts, lock Ross Bundy, flanker Carl Kirwan, multi-positional Jack Neville, winger James Peachey, scrum-half Liam Slatem, and prop Toby Williams
In addition to this weekends’ season finale at Lady Bay, news has also emerged that Championship clubs will join their Premiership counterparts in next seasons Premiership Rugby Cup competition (Exeter Chiefs are the holders after defeating London Irish 24-20, AET, last month).
A dozen teams in each division, twenty-four in total, will be separated into four pools of six, followed by the semi-finals, and final; the pool stage will take place in September and October this year, during the Rugby World Cup, with the semi-finals in February, and the final in March, next year.
With both Ealing Trailfinders, and Jersey Reds, ineligible for promotion to the Premiership, and the relegation of Wasps to the Championship, it provides a chance for sides for sides from differing divisions the opportunity to oppose each other, competitively, for the first time in near two decades.
Speaking of the new format, and opportunities being afforded clubs in rugby’s top two divisions, Steve Lloyd, chair of the Championship Clubs Committee, said: “The new cup format is the result of great collaboration between the Championship, RFU and Premiership Rugby.
“The clubs are delighted with the opportunity a different format brings as well as the experience of playing Premiership sides and the opportunity to welcome new fans into our clubs and grow our audiences.”
Meanwhile, Phil Winstanley, Premiership Rugby’s rugby director added: “The Championship performs a crucial role within the English game and we’re looking forward to renewing some rivalries of old.
“It is many years since the Premiership and Championship clubs clashed in a cup competition.
“With the Rugby World Cup taking place in France, this competition will no doubt provide the best, young English talent with an opportunity to stake a claim in squads before the start of the Gallagher Premiership campaign.”
For now though, the Archers’ focus is on that season finale, with the visiting London Scottish playing under those Friday Night Lights.
Oh, and this Saturday night (29 April), Lady Bay will play host to the Archers’ end-of-season dinner and awards night, a night available to all friends and fans of the club.
A three-course dinner, awards, and celebrations, will happen throughout the course of the night, with the club saying: “We would love to see as many familiar faces at the club for this night of celebration as possible.”
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @NottinghamRugby the Archers end their season against London Scottish at the Bay.