The men’s 1st XV has today been named in the inaugural BUCS Super Rugby league, featuring the top eight rugby-playing higher-education institutions in England and Wales.
The competition – organised by BUCS [British Universities and Colleges Sport] and supported by the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union – has been designed to raise the profile of university rugby, progress the level of performance to National League standard and establish a pathway to elite and professional rugby.
Aaron James, Head of Rugby at the University of Bath, said: “It’s an exciting challenge and we cannot wait to start. We are going to learn a lot across the whole rugby environment – coaching, playing, culture and organisation.
“The standard of weekly competition will be very high, against teams we would usually only face at the quarter-final and semi-final stages of the BUCS League. It’s a different ball game, both from a playing competition point of view and logistically – travel, accommodation and fitting in player availability around study commitments.
“We cannot thank the University of Bath enough for the increase in resources to be able to compete at a national level, from redeveloping the pitch here to providing support staff.”
The BUCS Super League will kick off in early October and run through to March. Matches will predominantly be played on Wednesday evenings and will be filmed, with a highlights package shown on television.
Among the grounds the University will get to play at are Newcastle Falcons’ Kingston Park, Exeter Chiefs’ Sandy Park, Headingley Stadium in Leeds and The Recreation Ground in Bath – that will stage the University of Bath’s home match against Leeds Beckett on Tuesday, October 25, as part of the University’s 50th-anniversary celebrations.
The University of Bath’s six other home matches will be played on the athletics infield at the Sports Training Village, providing plenty of room for spectators. Kick-off is 6.30pm.
“It’s great that we will playing night matches because that provides more opportunity for the public and students to watch, again raising the profile of our sport,” James added.
“The other BUCS sporting teams play on Wednesday afternoons, so they will still be around after their matches or just getting back home from away fixtures. Hopefully we will get some big crowds behind us.”
The University of Bath’s opening match will be away to Northumbria University on Friday, October 14, while their first home fixture will be against Loughborough University on Wednesday, October 19.
The other teams in the league are Cardiff Met, University of Exeter, Hartpury College and Durham University. All eight have been selected based on their rankings in the BUCS Premier League over the past five years – the top four from the Northern League and the top four from the Southern League.
The BUCS leagues below the Super Rugby competition have been restructured, with North A and South A now the second-highest tier. The University of Bath’s 2nd XV will compete in South B during the 2016-17 season.
Joining the University of Bath as head coach is former Bath Rugby and Bristol Rugby front row Mark Lilley, who will balance his role at the University with playing at Rosslyn Park RFC.
Chris Lilley, Mark’s dad and another former Bath Rugby player, and Adam Jamieson, a former Sports Performance student, are also in the coaching team, while Clare Pell will act as rugby coordinator.