Nottingham Rugby hooker Jimmy Stevens has been named in this year’s Championship Dream Team.
Greene King IPA Championship winners Bristol dominate the 2017/18 Championship Dream Team with seven current players and three close season signings from rival clubs making the final XV. It is the joint highest representation from a single club since the Dream Team concept was first introduced for the 2003/04 season.
Despite an injury-disrupted campaign, Samoa captain Chris Vui is named at lock and he is joined in the pack by Bristol teammates, flankers Steven Luatua and Dan Thomas.
In the backs, it is an all-Bristol half-back partnership with Rhodri Williams and Ian Madigan getting the nod at nine and 10 respectively, while the devastating running of Luke Morahan and Jordan Williams caught the eye of opposition coaches on the right wing and at full-back.
Thomas and Morahan picked up nine of the 11 votes available to them – one short of the all-time individual record set by Argentina international Juan Pablo Socino while playing inside centre for Rotherham in the 2013/14 season.
Bedford’s Dean Adamson makes up a stellar back three after being narrowly chosen on the left wing ahead of one of Bristol’s summer recruits, Jersey’s Tom Pincus. Blues also have a presence in midfield in the form of Michael Le Bourgeois.
Two players from Championship runners-up Ealing Trailfinders find their way into the Dream Team in Piers O’Conor, another to step up a level with Bristol next season, and lock Barney Maddison.
For the second time in the Dream Team’s history, Jersey provide both the props with Bristol-bound duo Jake Woolmore and Jake Armstrong following in the footsteps of 2014-15 inductees, Sam Lockwood and Harry Williams. They pack down either side of Nottingham hooker Jimmy Stevens.
Cornish Pirates No.8 Tom Lawday takes the total number of clubs represented in the Dream Team to six.
1.Jake Woolmore (Jersey Reds). Key member of Jersey’s juggernaut pack and one of the Reds’ three co-captains during the club’s best-ever campaign. Honourable mentions go to James Gibbons (Ealing), Marc Thomas (Yorkshire Carnegie) and Marlen Walker (Cornish Pirates).
2. Jimmy Stevens (Nottingham Rugby). Considered one of the best defensive players in the division and consistently excellent in his set piece work all season. Bedford’s Bristol-bound hooker Tom Lindsay came a close second.
3. Jake Armstrong (Jersey Reds). Immensely strong tight-head who, like Woolmore, has earned a move to Bristol next season. Cornerstone of the Reds’ pack who was pushed all the way by soon-to-be Bristol team-mate, Lewis Thiede of Ealing Trailfinders.
4. Barney Maddison (Ealing Trailfinders). Incredibly hard-working player whose worth to the team knows no bounds. Maddison has all the attributes you want from a second row: he is good in the set piece, carries hard, makes his tackles and has excellent game understanding.
5. Chris Vui (Bristol Rugby). Samoa’s captain during their autumn internationals did enough in his seven league starts for Bristol to warrant five votes. An extremely influential player until laid low by a season-ending injury at the end of January.
6. Steven Luatua (Bristol Rugby). Powerhouse All Black who lived up to his big-name reputation. While only captain for three of his 13 starts Luatua’s leadership qualities came to the fore throughout the campaign until injury struck against Jersey. Just shaded Ealing’s Kieran Murphy on the blindside.
7. Dan Thomas (Bristol Rugby). Brilliant breakdown exponent who won a constant supply of turnover ball for his side. Was just as good on the ball as he was over it, providing the link between forwards and backs with his pace around the park.
8. Tom Lawday (Cornish Pirates). Dual registered with Exeter Chiefs, Lawday has been a virtual ever-present for the Pirates this season. Possesses good footwork and agility for such a big man enabling him to find the weak shoulder of an opponent and consistently get over the game line.
9. Rhodri Williams (Bristol Rugby). Quick silver scrum-half whose darting breaks often led to him scoring tries or setting up team-mates. The Welshman was pushed all the way by his replacement at Bristol next season, Hartpury College’s Harry Randall. Lee Dickson also came close to making it a family double, brother Karl having been a Dream Team member in 2008/09 while also with Bedford.
10. Ian Madigan (Bristol Rugby). Got the back line moving at every opportunity with his ability to fire out bullet-like miss-passes. Consistently excellent off the kicking tee too, breaking Jason Strange’s club record for conversions in a league season.
11. Dean Adamson (Bedford Blues). Another prolific try-scoring campaign for the fleet-footed Blues flyer who nipped into the side ahead of Kyle Moyle and Tom Pincus. With sensational pace, a mean step and impressive control, the 24-year-old struck fear into the heart of defences.
12. Michael Le Bourgeois (Bedford Blues). The Blues’ skipper demonstrated sensational leadership qualities on and off the pitch as well as constantly putting his body on the line for the Bedford cause. At the heart of every attack and always willing to put in the big hits, his contribution has been immense. Bagged eight votes.
13. Piers O’Conor (Ealing Trailfinders). One of those ‘x-factor’ players who can make something happen out of nothing with his electric pace and elusive running. His ability to break the tackle set up many an Ealing attack. Makes the move from West London to the West Country in the summer.
14. Luke Morahan (Bristol Rugby). Natural born finisher who always finds a way over the try line. Reads the game so well and is defensively strong too. Arguably Bristol’s ‘find of the season’. Became only the sixth player in the club’s league history to score four tries in a match when he helped himself to a ‘double-double’ against Doncaster.
15. Jordan Williams (Bristol Rugby). Enjoyed a new lease of life under Pat Lam after a quiet debut season in the Premiership. Bamboozled many an opposition defence with his mesmerising runs from deep. The king of the counterattack joins namesake, Rhodri Williams, in swapping Bristol for Newport Gwent Dragons this summer.