County Championship (rugby union)
|Current season, competition or edition:
2016 Bill Beaumont Cup
|Owner(s)||Rugby Football Union|
|Most titles||Lancashire (23)|
The County Championship is an annual rugby union competition in England between teams representing English counties. After restructuring in 2007 the top tier of the Championship has been known as the Bill Beaumont Cup, after the trophy awarded to the competition winners was named in honour of Bill Beaumont, a former England and British & Irish Lions captain. Teams also compete for the County Championship Plate and County Championship Shield.
The English County Championship has a long history, being first officially recognised by the Rugby Football Union in 1889. The 2014 Championship was the 114th competition. The most successful county, Lancashire, has won the competition 23 times, followed by Gloucestershire (17) and Yorkshire (15). Gloucestershire and Lancashire (33 each) have made the most appearances in contested finals.
On four occasions the tournament final has been tied at full-time and a second leg rematch has been played. Two of these rematches were also tied and on these occasions (1907 and 1967) the finalists were declared joint winners. In 1991 the final match between Cornwall and Yorkshire was tied at full-time and extra time was played, with Cornwall winning 29-20. In 2001 the Championship did not take place due to the 2001 United Kingdom foot-and-mouth outbreak; instead Yorkshire and Cornwall were invited to play at Twickenham.
The 2015 final was contested by Lancashire and Cornwall, with the teams meeting in the final for the third consecutive year. Cornwall won the championship with an 18-13 victory, their fourth title overall and their first since 1999. Cornwall retained their title in 2016, this time beating Cheshire, 35-13.
There was little formal structure to the first official years of the competition, with teams playing different numbers of matches and different opposition from across England. The winners were determined by a panel of judges from the RFU Committee. From 1892-1895, the four winners of four regional Championships (North East, North West, South East and South West) played a round robin to determine the overall winner of the County Championship.
A restructure in 1896, led to the creation of North and South regions only, the winners of these regional competitions playing a final for the County Championship. Another restructure in 1921 saw the formation of 5 regions and the knock-out stage of the championship extend to semi-finals and a final. The winners of the North East, North West and South East regions were entered into a semi-final draw along with the winners of a playoff between the winners of the South and South West regions.
Since 2007, the top 8 counties have been split into two regions of 4 teams, North and South, who play a round robin tournament, the winners of which compete for the English County Championship in the final. This format is repeated for the 8 counties that compete for the County Championship Plate. The 11 counties which compete for the County Championship Shield are split into 3 pools from which the winners and runner-up with the best record meet in semi-final matches.
|1892||Yorkshire||Kent, Lancashire, Midlands|
|1893||Yorkshire||Cumberland, Devon, Middlesex|
|1894||Yorkshire||Lancashire, Midlands, Somerset|
|1895||Yorkshire||Cumberland, Devon, Midlands|
From 1984 all Championship finals were played at Twickenham.
|1985||Middlesex||12-9||Notts, Lincs & Derby||Twickenham|
Championships by county
|Notts, Lincs & Derby||1|
Eastern Counties and Notts, Lincs & Derby have reached the final but have never won the championship.
Gloucestershire are the only county to have completed a "hat-trick of tat-trick" of county titles: 1920,1921 & 1922; 1930,1931 & 1932; 1974,1975 & 1976.
John Fidler, former Gloucester, Gloucestershire and England lock Forward, still holds the record for the most County Championship Final appearances, nine in all, from 1971 to 1984.
- "County Championship: Cornwall 25-18 Hertfordshire". BBC Sport. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
- "County Championship final: Cornwall 18-13 Lancashire". BBC Sport. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
- "County Championship final 2016: Cornwall beat Cheshire to retain title at Twickenham". BBC Sport. 29 May 2016.