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Cornish Pirates

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Cornish Pirates
Full namePenzance and Newlyn Rugby Football Club
UnionCornwall RFU
Founded1945; 79 years ago (1945)
LocationPenzance, Cornwall, England
Ground(s)Mennaye Field (Capacity: 4,000 (2,200 seated))
ChairmanPaul Durkin
Coach(es)Gavin Cattle
Alan Paver
Captain(s)John Stevens
League(s)RFU Championship
Team kit
Official website

The Cornish Pirates (Cornish: An Vorladron Gernewek) are a professional rugby union team who play in the Championship, the second level of the English rugby union pyramid, and are the premier Cornish rugby club. Formerly known as Penzance & Newlyn RFU, the Cornish Pirates play and train at their home ground, the Mennaye Field in Penzance.



At the end of the 2004–05 season the Pirates finished in 4th position in National Division 1 which at the time was their highest league position since owner Dicky Evans became president and just three places below Premiership rugby status.

In 2005 the Pirates moved away from their home at The Mennaye in Penzance to a temporary 6,000-capacity Kenwyn Rugby Ground, near Truro.[1] In examining the options it had been viewed as imperative to increase the support base which led to a difficult decision for Dicky Evans and the supporters of the Pirates, as to whether the team should relocate to another site to play their home matches or not. The questions, concerns and sentiments arising from the proposals were thoroughly debated in the clubhouse and elsewhere. However, on 27 May 2005 at an emergency meeting held in a packed St Johns Hall the innovative plans were passed. They included:

  • Relocating to a new temporary site at Kenwyn, Truro for the 2005–06 season.
  • Re-branding including changing the club's name to the Cornish Pirates.
  • Upgrading all the facilities at the Mennaye Field which will continue to act as the permanent training base for the Cornish Pirates.
  • The Mennaye to continue to act as the playing home for the Pirates mini and junior sections and Mounts Bay RFC.

Following the vote, Dicky Evans told members: "ten years ago I asked you to support me in taking this club into the professional era. At that time there were those were totally against this move, there are people that are against this latest move. However, it is my belief that we must try this venture". He expressed his personal happiness at the support expressed for the move and regarded it as a step towards a Premiership rugby club in Cornwall.

Penzance & Newlyn RFC club badge.
Joe Beardshaw wins line-out ball for the Pirates against Plymouth Albion

Following a highly successful 2005–06 season, (when crowds were increased and the Pirates finished 3rd in Division 1), it was decided to relocate again and over the next two seasons the Cornish Pirates played their home rugby matches at Camborne RFC's recreation ground.[2] Camborne's ground is seen as many to be the best rugby ground in Cornwall boasting a superb grandstand. On 15 April 2007, the Cornish Pirates won the EDF Energy National Trophy at Twickenham for the first time in the club's history, against Exeter Chiefs. The score was 19–16.

The Pirates returned to The Mennaye for the 2010–11 season and remain there to date.

After the success of the 2006–07 cup win, the hope was that the club's ambition could finally be realised. This hope was hampered by the loss of Viliami Ma'asi and Alberto Di Bernardo (to Leeds), these losses were offset in some degree by the signing of Canadian international scrum half Ed Fairhurst, former England U21 centre Simon Whatling from Worcester and seasoned professional Rob Elloway from Gloucester. At first the results were not good but after the World Cup the team began to pick up and were joined by one of the stars of the tournament Tongan full back; Vunga Lilo. Unfortunately the side couldn't live with the newly relegated Northampton Saints and were unlucky to draw them in the 1st round of the cup, going down 15–3 at home.

In 2009–10 the Pirates won the inaugural British and Irish Cup, beating Munster A 23–14 in the final at the Recreation Ground, Camborne.

Pirates remain a solid RFU Championship side, their lowest finish since being 9th in 2015–16, with highs of 3rd in 2010–11 and 2011–12. These 3rd-place finishes resulted in Pirates qualifying for the promotion play-offs. In 2010-11 Pirates beat London Welsh in the semi-final 18–10 at the Mennaye Field before succumbing to Worcester Warriors in the final over two legs, 12–21 at home and 25–20 away, 46–32 on aggregate, resulting in Worcester's promotion back to the Aviva Premiership. The following season the Pirates again won their semi-final, beating Bristol over two legs, 45–24 at home and losing 29–18 away, resulting in a 63–53 win on aggregate. Pirates again however lost in the final, this time to London Welsh, losing 21–37 at the Mennaye and 29–20 away from home, 66–41 on aggregate.

Following these highs, Pirates did not finish in the play-off places again, finishing between 6th and 9th in the subsequent seasons. They returned to the top four in the 2017–18 season, finishing 4th, however a restructure to the league for that season had seen the play-offs abolished, with 1st place being promoted to the Premiership automatically.

To be promoted to the Premiership a team must meet certain stadium requirements, and the capacity of the Mennaye Field is too small to meet these. Because of this, there have been many plans over the years for the Pirates to move into a new, larger stadium which meets these requirements to allow the Pirates to achieve their goal of promotion to the Premiership. The most concrete of these plans is the proposed Stadium for Cornwall, which would be home for both the Pirates and Truro City Football Club.[3] The Stadium For Cornwall has received funding from Cornwall Council, and is now only awaiting £3m of funding from the UK government before construction can begin, which is expected to be provided in Spring 2019.[4] The first stage is planned to have a capacity of 6,000, which can be expanded to 10,000 in phase two in the event of the Pirates being promoted.



A number of promotions at the beginning of the 21st century saw the Pirates rise from south-west regional rugby all of the way up to the second division. The re-brand from Penzance & Newlyn to the Cornish Pirates for the 2005–06 season, along with relocating from Penzance to Truro, meant that the club was not only the highest ranked in the county but also the best supported, having doubled its supporter base in just over five seasons. A further move to Camborne the next season saw attendances continued to flourish, rising to a peak of 3,011 per game during the 2009–10 season.

A move back to Penzance during the 2010–11 season heralded a steady decline in attendances, although as the county's only professional team the club still was easily the best supported. Despite their higher status, the Pirates continued to enjoy good relations with neighbouring clubs such as Redruth and Camborne, often playing home matches on Sunday so that supporters of those clubs can also attend games at the Mennaye Field. It is hoped that the proposed move back to Truro to the proposed Stadium for Cornwall will see an upturn in the club's fortunes and bring the supporters back.

Season Total Average Highest
2000–01[a 1] 11,400 1,140 2,000
2001–02[a 2] 12,400 1,127 3,000
2002–03[a 3] 11,300 1,614 2,200
2003–04[a 4] 19,810 2,201 5,100
2004–05[a 5] 24,018 2,002 5,000
2005–06 36,194 2,784 5,879
2006–07 38,892 2,593 5,365
2007–08 52,294 3,486 6,487
2008–09 44,739 2,983 4,913
2009–10 42,157 3,011 5,654
2010–11 39,195 2,450 3,500
2011–12 36,932 2,308 3,214
2012–13 20,480 1,862 2,954
2013–14 21,558 1,797 3,752
2014–15 16,270 1,479 2,390
2015–16 15,705 1,428 2,340
2016–17 16,132 1,467 2,043
2017–18 16,715 1,520 2,236
2018–19 20,190 1,835 2,963
2019–20[a 6] 14,372 1,797 2,975
2020–21[a 7] 0 0 0
2021–22 16,963 1,696 2,042
2022–23 16,599 1,509 1,718
2023–24 16,242 1,624 2,474

Season summary

Season League National Cup(s) Other Cup(s)
Competition/Level Position Points Play Offs Competition Performance Competition Performance
1987–88 Cornwall/Devon (8) 4th 13
1988–89 Cornwall/Devon (8) 7th 10
1989–90 Cornwall/Devon (8) 1st (promoted)
1990–91 Western Counties (7)
1991–92 Western Counties (7)
1992–93 Western Counties (7)
1993–94 Western Counties (7)
1994–95 Western Counties (7)
1995–96 Western Counties (7) 3rd (promoted) 14
1996–97 South West 2 West (6)
1997–98 South West 2 West (6) 1st (promoted)[5] 36
1998–99 South West 1 (5) 4th[6] 29 Tetley's Bitter Cup 2nd Round Cornwall Cup Winners
1999–00 South West 1 (5) 1st (promoted)[7] 40 Tetley's Bitter Cup 3rd Round Cornwall Cup Winners
2000–01 National 3 South (4) 3rd 38 Tetley's Bitter Cup 3rd Round Cornwall Cup Semi-finals[8]
2001–02 National 3 South (4) 1st (promoted) 49 Powergen Cup 2nd Round
2002–03 National 2 (3) 1st (promoted) 45 Powergen Cup 3rd Round
2003–04 National 1 (2) 10th 43[a 8] Powergen Cup 6th Round
2004–05 National 1 (2) 4th 85 Powergen Cup 3rd Round
2005–06[a 9] National 1 (2) 3rd 90 Powergen Trophy 6th Round[9]
2006–07 National 1 (2) 5th 101 EDF Energy Cup Winners[10]
2007–08 National 1 (2) 5th 91 EDF Energy Trophy 4th Round[11]
2008–09 National 1 (2) 7th 82 EDF Energy Trophy 5th Round[12]
2009–10 RFU Championship (2)[a 10] 6th[a 11] 58[a 12] British & Irish Cup Winners
2010–11 RFU Championship (2) 3rd[a 13] 76[a 14] Runners up British & Irish Cup Pool Stage
2011–12 RFU Championship (2) 3rd[a 15] 74[a 16] Runners up British & Irish Cup Semi-finals
2012–13 RFU Championship (2) 6th[a 17] 52 British & Irish Cup Quarter-finals
2013–14 RFU Championship (2) 6th 51 British & Irish Cup Quarter-finals
2014–15 RFU Championship (2) 8th 45 British & Irish Cup Pool Stage
2015–16 RFU Championship (2) 9th 49 British & Irish Cup Semi-finals
2016–17 RFU Championship (2) 6th 55 British & Irish Cup Quarter-finals
2017–18 RFU Championship (2) 4th[a 18] 67 British & Irish Cup Quarter-finals
2018–19 RFU Championship (2) 5th 59 RFU Championship Cup Semi-finals
2019–20 RFU Championship (2) 3rd 75.43[a 19] RFU Championship Cup Semi-finals[a 20]
2020–21 RFU Championship (2)
Green background stands for either league champions (with promotion) or cup winners. Blue background stands for promotion without winning league or losing cup finalists. Pink background stands for relegation.




Club records

Highest attendance – 6,487

At home to Northampton Saints on 9 September 2007 (Recreation Ground, Camborne).[18]

Highest average attendance (league) — 3,486

Achieved during the 2007–08 season

Current standings

2023–24 RFU Championship table
Pos Team Pld W D L PF PA PD TB LB Pts
1 Ealing Trailfinders (C) 20 16 0 4 823 417 +406 16 2 82
2 Cornish Pirates 20 15 1 4 589 408 +181 12 1 75
3 Coventry 20 14 0 6 698 428 +270 15 2 73
4 Bedford Blues 20 12 0 8 590 563 +27 13 4 65
5 Hartpury University 20 11 0 9 627 551 +76 11 4 59
6 Doncaster Knights 20 11 1 8 509 529 −20 9 2 57
7 Ampthill 20 10 0 10 573 607 −34 14 2 56
8 Nottingham 20 8 0 12 487 615 −128 13 2 47
9 London Scottish 20 4 1 15 510 614 −104 10 7 35
10 Caldy 20 5 1 14 415 675 −260 8 1 31
11 Cambridge 20 2 0 18 382 796 −414 7 5 20
Updated to match(es) played on 25 May 2024. Source: "The Championship". England Rugby.
Rules for classification: If teams are level at any stage, tiebreakers are applied in the following order:
  1. Number of matches won
  2. Difference between points for and against
  3. Total number of points for
  4. Aggregate number of points scored in matches between tied teams
  5. Number of matches won excluding the first match, then the second and so on until the tie is settled
There is no relegation this season
(C) Champions (ineligible for Promotion play-off)

Current squad


The Cornish Pirates squad for the 2023–24 season.[19][a][b]

Note: Flags indicate national union under World Rugby eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-World Rugby nationality.

Player Position Union
Harry Hocking [a] Hooker England England
Morgan Nelson Hooker Wales Wales
Max Norey [a] Hooker England England
Rhys Williams Hooker Wales Wales
Jack Andrew Prop England England
Matt Johnson [a] Prop England England
James Kenny [a] Prop England England
Jacob Morris [a] Prop England England
Fin Richardson [a] Prop Scotland Scotland
Marlen Walker Prop New Zealand New Zealand
Lefty Zigiriadis [b] Prop South Africa South Africa
Steele Barker Lock England England
Will Britton Lock England England
Hugo Bokenham Lock Australia Australia
Josh King Lock Scotland Scotland
Cory Teague [a] Lock England England
Josh Williams Lock England England
Harry Dugmore [b] Back row England England
Alex Everett Back row England England
Will Gibson Back row England England
Ben Grubb [a] Back row England England
John Stevens Back row England England
Player Position Union
Ruaridh Dawson Scrum-half Scotland Scotland
Alex Schwarz Scrum-half Wales Wales
Bruce Houston Fly-half Ireland Ireland
Iwan Jenkins [a] Fly-half Wales Wales
Tom Pittman Fly-half England England
Joe Elderkin Centre England England
Ioan Evans Centre Wales Wales
Tom Georgiou [b] Centre England England
Dan John [a] Centre Wales Wales
Matthew McNab Wing Zimbabwe Zimbabwe
Frankie Nowell [a] Wing England England
Arthur Relton [a] Wing England England
Eparama Rokodrava [b] Wing England England
Robin Wedlake Wing England England
Jordan Gott Fullback Belgium Belgium
Kyle Moyle Fullback England England
Will Trewin Fullback England England
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Players who are dual-registered from Exeter Chiefs for the 2023-24 season.[20]
  2. ^ a b c d e Four players are on season-long loans from Ealing Trailfinders for the 2023-24 season.[21]

Notable former players



  1. ^ Note that Pirates are missing 3 home attendances out of 13 due to poor media coverage during the 2000–01 season.
  2. ^ Note that Pirates are missing 1 home attendance out of 13 during the 2001–02 season.
  3. ^ Note that Pirates are missing 6 home attendances out of 13 due to extremely poor media coverage during the 2002–03 season.
  4. ^ Note that Pirates are missing 3 home attendances out of 13 due to poor media coverage during the 2003–04 season.
  5. ^ Note that Pirates are missing 1 home attendance out of 13 during the 2004–05 season.
  6. ^ Note that Pirates only played 8 home games (out of 11) during the 2019–20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom.
  7. ^ Note that home games were held behind closed doors during the 2020–21 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom.
  8. ^ Bonus points had been used in National 1 since the 2003–04 season but would not be introduced to the lower leagues until much later. As this was the highest level the Pirates had reached, 2003–04 was the first season the club would experience bonus points.
  9. ^ First season that the club would be known as the Cornish Pirates. Prior to this they were Penzance-Newlyn.
  10. ^ As part of the extensive league restructuring by the RFU for the 2009–10 season, National 1 was renamed as the RFU Championship.
  11. ^ League position is taken from 1st stage only. The 2009–10 RFU Championship was divided into three stages; the Pirates finished 6th during the 1st stage (main league), and then 3rd in their promotion group during the second stage, failing to qualify for the playoff semi-finals.
  12. ^ Figure is taken from first stage of the 2009–10 RFU Championship.
  13. ^ As with the previous season, the 2010–11 RFU Championship was divided into three stages. Pirates finished 3rd in the first stage, then 1st in their promotion group (second stage) to qualify for the playoffs.
  14. ^ Figure is taken from first stage of the 2010–11 RFU Championship.
  15. ^ Pirates finished 3rd in the first stage, then 2nd in their promotion group (second stage) to qualify for the playoffs.
  16. ^ Figure is taken from first stage of the 2011–12 RFU Championship.
  17. ^ The competition format for the 2012–13 RFU Championship changed to a main league stage, with the top 4 sides contesting the playoffs.
  18. ^ The competition format for the 2017–18 RFU Championship and onward was changed to a standard league, with the playoffs discontinued.
  19. ^ The season was postponed and ultimately cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom with Pirates sitting in 3rd, having played 15 games and gained 52 points. The remaining games were calculated on a 'best playing record formula', with Pirates remaining in 3rd place but with 75.43 points.[13]
  20. ^ Pirates had reached the semi-finals of RFU Championship Cup by the time the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom broke out. The cup would be cancelled by the RFU with no winner.
  21. ^ Note that Penzance (a parent club of the Pirates) won 2 additional Cornish Cups and Newlyn (the second parent club) won the Cornwall Clubs Cup once.

See also



  1. ^ "Truro to be home of Cornish rugby". Somerset County Gazette. 20 July 2005. Retrieved 12 February 2024.
  2. ^ "Pirates want to stay at Camborne". 17 November 2008. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
  3. ^ "Business plan for Cornwall sports stadium approved". BBC News. 16 March 2011. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  4. ^ "Stadium for Cornwall: Work could begin in spring 2019". BBC Sport. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  5. ^ "Final League Tables 1996–97". Trelawny's Army. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  6. ^ "Final League Tables, 1997–98". Trelawny's Army. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  7. ^ "South West 1 1998–1999". England Rugby. Rugby Football Union. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  8. ^ "CRFU decide foot and mouth crisis". South West Farmers. 9 March 2001.
  9. ^ "Powergen National Trophy 2005/06". Statbunker. 25 November 2005.
  10. ^ "EDF Energy National Cup 2006/07". Statbunker. 14 April 2007.
  11. ^ "EDF National Trophy 07/08". Statbunker. 11 January 2008.
  12. ^ "EDF National Trophy 07/08". Statbunker. 14 February 2009.
  13. ^ "RFU confirms league positions". England Rugby. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  14. ^ "Trelawny's Army Final League Tables 1996-97".
  15. ^ "Trelawny's Army Final League Tables 1998-99".
  16. ^ "Cornish Pirates 23-14 Munster". BBC. 17 May 2010. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  17. ^ "League & Cup Honours". Archived from the original on 10 August 2009. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
  18. ^ "Cornish Pirates 26 Northampton Saints 35". Cornish Pirates. 9 September 2007. Archived from the original on 24 May 2018. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  19. ^ "A-Z OF PLAYERS & STAFF". Cornish Pirates. 22 March 2024. Retrieved 22 March 2024.
  20. ^ "Chiefs dual reg names confirmed". Cornish Pirates. 15 June 2023. Retrieved 15 June 2023.
  21. ^ "Quartet join on loan from Ealing Trailfinders". Cornish Pirates. 26 June 2023. Retrieved 26 June 2023.