Regardless of the winner of Sunday’s British & Irish Cup at Headingley Carnegie, with two Greene King IPA Championship sides in the Final, British clubs will have taken a 4-3 lead over their Irish rivals in the annual competition.
The British and Irish Cup took place for the first time in the 2009–10 season and is now in its seventh season.
A total of twenty-four teams from England (twelve), Ireland (three), Scotland (three) and Wales (six) competed in the inaugural competition. This remained the case for the first three seasons, though the format has varied slightly in each season. For the 2012–13 season, the competition was expanded to thirty-two teams; England (twelve), Ireland (four), Scotland (four), and Wales (twelve) and for the first time, pool stage games were played on a "home and away" basis. For the 2013–14 season the number of teams competing was reduced to twenty-four, with the Welsh entrants reduced from twelve to four, and last season the competition was reduced to twenty teams with the withdrawal of the Scottish clubs.
Five different clubs have won the competition to date: Cornish Pirates, Bristol and Worcester Warriors from England, and Munster A and Leinster A from Ireland. Leinster A beat Carnegie 44-17 in the 2013–14 final and retained the cup they won in the previous season – the first team to win the cup for a second time. Worcester Warriors are the current holders after they beat Doncaster Knights 35-5 in the latest final on 3 April 2015.
There have been six different runners-up: Munster A from Ireland, Bedford Blues, Newcastle Falcons, Carnegie and Doncaster Knights from England, and Cross Keys from Wales. Ayr are the only rugby club from Scotland to reach the quarter-finals stage.
The first final saw Cornish Pirates defeat Munster A at Camborne. In the Pirates team that day was current Yorkshire Carnegie second row Mike Myerscough, who came off the bench in the 23-14 victory. The Munster side had a number of future Irish internationals including Simon Zebo on the wing.
The following season was an all English affair as Bristol defeated Bedford at the Memorial Ground, that game saw a young Mako Vunipola take on George Kruis in their formative years going head to head. Then came a period of dominance for the Irish Provinces. Munster A defeated Welsh side Cross Keys. Cross Keys had defeated Cornish Pirates in the semi final, the Pirates including David Doherty and Mike Myerscough in their team that day.
In 2013 final, there was last gasp drama for Joel Hodgson and Chris Pilgrim at Kingston Park with their then team, Newcastle Falcons. The home side looked to have secured victory when Hodgson and James Fitzpatrick combined late on to set up a leveling try. Hodgson then kicked the penalty to put his side 17-15 in front only for Leinster A to get a late penalty to win the game.
The following year, James Lowes' Carnegie side travelled to Dublin to take on the holders having defeated Bristol at the Memorial Ground in the semi final. The game came a week after the heart breaking loss to London Welsh in the play offs and Carnegie were no match for a fired up home outfit. There are twelve survivors from that side still at the club who could be involved on Sunday.
Finally, Worcester travelled to Castle Park to face Doncaster Knights in last year's final and claimed a victory that catapulted them into a strong end to the season that ultimately saw them return to the Aviva Premiership.
|2009–10||Cornish Pirates||23 – 14||Munster A||Recreation Ground, Camborne||4,240|
|2010–11||Bristol||17 – 14||Bedford Blues||Memorial Ground, Bristol||4,375|
|2011–12||Munster A||31 – 12||Cross Keys||Musgrave Park, Cork||3,000|
|2012–13||Leinster A||18 – 17||Newcastle Falcons||Kingston Park, Newcastle||3,838|
|2013–14||Leinster A||44 – 17||Leeds Carnegie||Donnybrook, Dublin||2,024|
|2014–15||Worcester Warriors||35 – 5||Doncaster Knights||Castle Park, Doncaster||3,115|