The eighth season of the Greene King IPA Championship launched on Thursday with all 12 clubs represented at a pub quiz at the St Margaret’s Tavern in Richmond.

The players came together to preview the 2016/17 season, which kicks off on September 3 and Greene King IPA Championship chairman Geoff Irvine is raring to get under way.

"Last season gave us another exciting finale to the Greene King IPA Championship and we're eager to see what 2016/17 holds," said Irvine.

"Since the league started back in 2009 we've seen some quality rugby year on year and we expect this season to be no exception."

'NO WALK IN THE PARK'

London Irish, relegated from the Aviva Premiership last season, will be among the favourites to win the Championship but Shane Geraghty knows it will be a big challenge.

Former player-coach Brendan Venter has returned to the club as technical director with Nick Kennedy taking over as director of rugby. 

"The coaches have re-emphasised how tough the league is," said Geraghty. "It's an incredibly tough league.

"We are under no illusions as to it being a walk in the park – it will be quite the opposite.

"There are some really good teams in the Championship, full of experience and there's going to be some really tough away fixtures."

'NOT AFRAID TO LOSE'

At the other end of the spectrum, Richmond make a return to the second tier of English rugby having fallen to the ninth tier 17 years ago after a failed experiment with professionalism left the club in administration.

Richmond players will retain their day jobs as they attempt the challenge of the Championship. 

"I'm not scared of going out and losing 22 games," said captain Will Warden. "I'm scared of going out there and losing the club we have got.

"The club that was built way back in 1861 and had a bit of a blip around the professional era but has risen again.

"That's the club that I joined, that's the club the boys all play for and that's what we want to maintain. If we can do it in this environment then fantastic. We're going to give it a go."

Warden admitted that the unique challenge of holding down day jobs and competing at this level would test his club. 

"We're working on all the same things the other teams are but it's just that we have got to go to work nine to five as well.

"But you make it work. If you want it, you make it work. It isn't easy because everyone is ambitious for their careers outside of rugby too."