New rugby union structure revealed in big shake-up of grassroots game

The new format of the rugby union club game has been revealed in what is the most significant shake-up of the sport’s grassroots competition structure for 30 years.

Conducted by the Rugby Football Union, the new structure, which is in place for the 2022/23 season, sees a reduction in the size of divisions at all levels below the RFU Championship (Level 2) and an increase in the number of divisions at all levels below National League 1 (formerly level 3).

New national cup competitions will also take place at the end of the season with optional entry to the different tiers dependent on closing league position, a move aimed at removing the conflict of league and cup fixtures within the season.

The changes have been made in response to feedback from players around what they were looking for in the future for their rugby and are designed to reboot and re-energise community rugby, improve player retention and attract new players to adult men’s game.

The changes for the 2022/23 season can be summarised as follows:

  • One league of 14 teams (formerly 16) at National 1 (formerly Level 3)
  • Three leagues of 14 teams (formerly 16) at National 2 (formerly Level 4)
  • Six leagues of 12 teams (formerly 14) at Regional 1 (formerly Level 5)
  • 12 leagues of 12 teams (formerly 14) at Regional 2 (formerly Level 6)
  • 18 leagues of 10-12 teams at Counties 1 (formerly Level 7)
  • 24 leagues of 10-12 teams at Counties 2 (formerly Level 8)
  • 37 leagues of 10-12 teams at Counties 3-5 (formerly Level 9 and below)

In a statement, the RFU has said the new structure will “help meet the needs of players by reducing travel for matches, helping club sustainability by reducing travel costs.” It adds that the geographical grouping will bring back and even introduce more local derbies, which it says will attract more attention to games.

All leagues have been grouped geographically, with reduced travel time and distances throughout the entire structure, while the reduction in the number of clubs per division will shorten the league season, addressing concerns shared by players around the intensity of the current structure.

Regional 1 (formerly Level 5) and below will see the introduction of a new national cup competition at the end of the season with optional entry to the different tiers based on final league position.

This, the RFU says, is designed to “remove the conflict of league and cup fixtures within the season, to maintain a variety of competition offering and to provide and exciting finale to the community rugby season, with finals days at leading rugby venues”.

The league structure for the 2022/23 season has been formalised and fixtures will be released at the beginning of June.

Below is the constitution of all leagues concerning Cornish clubs, with teams from the Duchy highlighted in bold.

National 1

  • Birmingham Moseley
  • Bishop’s Stortford
  • Cambridge
  • Chinnor
  • Cinderford
  • Darlington Mowden Park
  • Esher
  • Hull
  • Leeds Tykes
  • Plymouth Albion
  • Rams
  • Rosslyn Park
  • Sale FC
  • Taunton Titans

National 2 West (one of three divisions at this level)

  • Barnstaple
  • Bournville
  • Clifton
  • Dings Crusaders
  • Exeter University
  • Hinckley
  • Hornets
  • Leicester Lions
  • Loughborough Students
  • Luctonians
  • Newport (Salop)
  • Old Redcliffians
  • Redruth
  • Stourbridge

Regional 1 South West (one of six divisions)

  • Brixham
  • Camborne
  • Chew Valley
  • Devonport Services
  • Drybrook
  • Exmouth
  • Ivybridge
  • Launceston
  • Lydney
  • Old Centralians
  • Okehampton
  • Weston-super-Mare

Regional 2 South West (one of 12 divisions)

  • Bridgwater & Albion
  • Chard
  • Crediton
  • Newton Abbot
  • North Petherton
  • Sherborne
  • Sidmouth
  • St Austell
  • Teignmouth
  • Truro
  • Wadebridge Camels
  • Wellington

Counties 1 Western West (one of 18 divisions)

  • Bideford
  • Bude
  • Cullompton
  • Falmouth
  • Kingsbridge
  • Paignton
  • Penryn
  • Pirates Amateurs
  • Plymstock Albion Oaks
  • Tiverton
  • Topsham
  • Wiveliscombe

Counties 2 Cornwall (one of 24 divisions)

  • Bodmin
  • Camborne SOM
  • Hayle
  • Helston
  • Illogan Park
  • Liskeard-Looe
  • Newquay Hornets
  • Redruth II
  • Saltash
  • St Austell II
  • St Ives
  • Veor

Counties 3 Cornwall (one of 24 divisions)

  • Bude II
  • Camborne II
  • Camelford
  • Lankelly
  • Launceston II
  • Perranporth
  • Redruth Albany
  • Roseland
  • St Agnes
  • St Just
  • Wadebridge II

[Featured image: Colin Bradbury / Cornwall Sports Media]

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