The 2015/16 British & Irish Cup fixtures have been revealed as the cross-border competition enters its seventh year, with four Regional Premiership Select sides representing Wales for the first time.
The changes have been made following a wide-ranging review of competition structures, in order to facilitate the development pathway in Wales.
The first matches take place in November and the Welsh teams will take on a 'Barbarians' flavour, players wearing their club socks for the matches against English and Irish opposition. Home venues are yet to be confirmed and regional coaching teams are set to invite Principality Premiership coaches to assist in match preparation.
The Ospreys Premiership Select face Yorkshire Carnegie, 2012 winners Munster ‘A’ and London Scottish as they bid to get out of Pool 3. They travel to Yorkshire in Round One before hosting London Scottish in Round Two. Rounds Three and Four in December are back to games against Munster ‘A’, the away leg up first, before the pool stages are rounded off the following month with a trip to London Scottish in Round 5 and a home game in Round 6 against Yorkshire.
2015-16 British & Irish Cup structure and fixtures
Twelve Greene King IPA Championship clubs
Four Welsh Regional Premiership squads
Four Irish provinces – Connacht Eagles, Munster 'A', Leinster 'A' and Ulster Ravens
Pool 1: Ealing Trailfinders, Moseley, Leinster 'A', Rotherham Titans
Pool 2: Bedford Blues, Scarlets Premiership Select, Bristol Rugby, Ulster Ravens
Pool 3: Ospreys Premiership Select, Yorkshire Carnegie, Munster 'A', London Scottish
Pool 4: Nottingham Rugby, Cardiff Blues Premiership Select, London Welsh, Cornish Pirates
Pool 5: Newport Gwent Dragons Premiership Select, Connacht Eagles, Doncaster Knights, Jersey RFC
Round one – 13/14/15 November
Moseley vs Ealing Trailfinders
Rotherham Titans vs Leinster 'A'
Scarlets Premiership Select vs Bedford Blues
Ulster Ravens vs Bristol Rugby
Yorkshire Carnegie vs Ospreys Premiership Select
London Scottish vs Munster 'A'
Cardiff Blues Premiership Select vs Nottingham Rugby
Cornish Pirates vs London Welsh
Connacht Eagles vs Newport Gwent Dragons Premiership Select
Jersey RFC vs Doncaster Knights
Round two – 20/21/22 November
Ealing Trailfinders vs Rotherham Titans
Leinster 'A' vs Moseley
Bedford Blues vs Ulster Ravens
Bristol Rugby vs Scarlets Premiership Select
Ospreys Premiership Select vs London Scottish
Munster 'A' vs Yorkshire Carnegie
Nottingham Rugby vs Cornish Pirates
London Welsh vs Cardiff Blues Premiership Select
Newport Gwent Dragons Premiership Select vs Jersey RFC
Doncaster Knights vs Connacht Eagles
Round three – December 11/12/13
Leinster 'A' vs Ealing Trailfinders
Moseley vs Rotherham Titans
Bristol Rugby vs Bedford Blues
Scarlets Premiership Select vs Ulster Ravens
Munster 'A' vs Ospreys Premiership Select
Yorkshire Carnegie vs London Scottish
London Welsh vs Nottingham Rugby
Cardiff Blues Premiership Select vs Cornish Pirates
Doncaster Knights vs Newport Gwent Dragons Premiership Select
Connacht Eagles vs Jersey RFC
Round four – 18/19/20 December
Ealing Trailfinders vs Leinster 'A'
Rotherham Titans vs Moseley
Bedford Blues vs Bristol Rugby
Ulster Ravens vs Scarlets Premiership Select
Ospreys Premiership Select vs Munster 'A'
London Scottish vs Yorkshire Carnegie
Nottingham Rugby vs London Welsh
Cornish Pirates vs Cardiff Blues Premiership Select
Newport Gwent Dragons Premiership Select vs Doncaster Knights
Jersey RFC vs Connacht Eagles
Round five – 15/16/17 January
Moseley vs Leinster 'A'
Rotherham Titans vs Ealing Trailfinders
Scarlets Premiership Select vs Bristol Rugby
Ulster Ravens vs Bedford Blues
Yorkshire Carnegie vs Munster 'A'
London Scottish vs Ospreys Premiership Select
Cardiff Blues Premiership vs London Welsh
Cornish Pirates vs Nottingham Rugby
Connacht Eagles vs Doncaster Knights
Jersey RFC vs Newport Gwent Dragons Premiership Select
Round six – 23 January
Ealing Trailfinders vs Moseley
Leinster 'A' vs Rotherham Titans
Bedford Blues vs Scarlets Premiership Select
Bristol Rugby vs Ulster Ravens
Ospreys Premiership Select vs Yorkshire Carnegie
Munster 'A' vs London Scottish
Nottingham Rugby vs Cardiff Blues Premiership Select
London Welsh vs Cornish Pirates
Newport Gwent Dragons Premiership Select vs Connacht Eagles
Doncaster Knights vs Jersey RFC
WRU chairman Gareth Davies said: “The British & Irish Cup is a key element of our elite competition pathway and provides a crucial development tool for players, coaches and match officials.
“We believe the inclusion of Regional Premiership Select sides in this competition will provide a fantastic platform to help the best young players in Wales to step up to professional rugby.”
Principality Premiership chairman, Chris Clarke, said: “The Premiership clubs are again looking forward to playing their part in this important chapter in the development of our professional players and hopefully the competition will gain added momentum in the season that is shortly about to commence.”
Pro Rugby Wales, the organisation which represents the four Welsh professional rugby teams; Scarlets, Cardiff Blues, Ospreys and Newport Gwent Dragons said that the 2015/16 British & Irish Cup would offer exciting fixtures and important opportunities for further development of young talent in Wales through the inclusion of four Regional Premiership Select teams.
PRW chief executive Mark Davies said: “This is a great cross border competition and after a full and thorough review of Welsh rugby’s representation in the British & Irish Cup we go forward positively and will embrace this vital opportunity for player development which will benefit Premiership clubs, the regional game and ultimately the national side.
“Thanks to the hard work of the Working Group set up by the WRU, our four Pro Rugby teams and Premiership clubs are now looking forward to joining forces and working together to show what our young players can do against the likes of some competitive clubs over the border such as Bristol, Bedford and London Welsh in England and the Irish provinces. There are some great fixtures to capture the imagination and will really give our young players a great platform.”
Taking place on 13-15, 20-22 November, 11-13, 18-20 December and 15-17, 23 January.
Five pools of 4 playing home and away
Four points for a win, two for a draw, one bonus point for a) scoring 4 or more tries and/or b) losing by 7 points or less
Taking place on weekend of 12 March, 2016
Top side in each pool progress to knockout stage, plus three best runners-up
Eight quarter-finalists ranked with teams ranked 1-4 having home advantage
Semi-finals and final
Four winning quarter finalists progress to semi -final draw which takes place on weekend of 19 March 2016
Semi-finalists progress to final to take place on weekend of 9 April 2016