GKIPA Championship 'Dream Team' is announced

25/05/2014

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Greene King IPA Championship Player of the Year Juan Pablo Socino and fellow nominees, Craig Hampson and Mark Bright have made it into the 2013/14 Championship Dream XV.

Now in its 11th year, the Championship Dream XV is voted for by the competition's coaches, who select their first choice 1-15 (excluding their own players) based on performances in the regular season. Compiled by rugby journalist Jon Newcombe in association with the RFU, the line-up is published in today's edition of The Rugby Paper.

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In attracting all bar one of the votes available at inside centre, Rotherham star Socino maintains his ever-present record in the Dream XV having previously been selected during his first spell at the Titans three years ago and at Nottingham the following year.

The Newcastle-bound player, who finished with over 300 points for the season, is joined by two other Titans in the form of lock Dan Sanderson and hooker Tom Cruse.

Jersey's Jon Brennan earned a place in the 2012/13 Dream Team, but this year the XV is dominated by the top-ranked sides in the final table. Plymouth Albion winger Tom Bowen is the only player from a club outside the top five. The four play-off teams feature heavily, and fifth-placed London Scottish boast the biggest representation of any club with Bright being joined in the pack by props Eric Fry and Tomas Francis, while Miles Mantella, the Championship's top try scorer (pictured below scoring against Jersey in November), takes his place on the left wing.

Unsurprisingly a significant proportion of the Dream XV will be playing their rugby in the Aviva Premiership in 2014/15; the exact number won't be confirmed until after the Play-Off Final beyween Bristol and London Welsh.

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1) Prop: Eric Fry (London Scottish)
Able to play both sides of the scrum, US Eagles international Fry has earned a Premiership move to Newcastle on the back of his outstanding performances for Scottish. A big scrummager with a high work rate.

2) Hooker: Tom Cruse (Rotherham Titans)
A modern-day, dynamic hooker who contributes massively around the park with his ball-handling skills and pace. Cruse, scorer of seven tries in 21 appearances, won the lion's share of the votes in the number two position. 

3) Prop: Tomas Francis (London Scottish)
Another key component of Scottish's big front five. Strong in the scrummage and deceptively mobile for a big man, at 22 years of age Exeter-bound Francis still has his best days ahead of him.

4) Lock: Mark Sorensen (Bristol Rugby)
Sorensen's leadership qualities have come to the fore in helping Bristol top the regular season table. The 35-year-old is a hugely experienced operator who runs a strong set-piece as well as being comfortable on the ball.

5) Lock: Dan Sanderson (Rotherham Titans)
Worcester wasted no time in snapping up the former Northampton and Moseley man after an impressive second season at Clifton Lane. The Titans' 'go-to' man in the lineout has also contributed to Roth's all-court style of game with his ability to free his long arms in the tackle and get the ball away.

6) Flanker: Nick Koster (Bristol Rugby)
The former Baby Bok belatedly appears to have come of age at Bristol whilst on a season-long loan deal from Bath - a move which has since become permanent. After years of knee problems and limited game-time the pacey back-rower has consistently proved his pedigree.

7) Flanker: Carl Kirwan (London Welsh)
Kirwan makes a real nuisance of himself at the breakdown with his immense strength over the ball. A willing and effective ball carrier who beat the competition hands down with eight votes.

8) No.8: Mark Bright (London Scottish)
If you include his days as a Redruth player in National One, Bright, the only survivor from last year's Dream XV, has now been voted the best in his position for seven years in a row. The Championship Player of the Year nominee has a ridiculous turn of pace for a forward, helping him score 16 tries in 23 league appearances.

9) Scrum-half: Craig Hampson (Leeds Carnegie)
Hampson beat off stiff competition from Rotherham's Charlie Mulchrone to follow up his Player of the Year nomination with inclusion in the Dream XV. The livewire scrum-half, who made 25 appearances for Carnegie in the season just gone, keeps defences honest with his eye for a gap and willingness to run penalties at every opportunity.

10)  Fly-half: Nicky Robinson (Bristol Rugby)
The former Wales international showed all his experience in the second leg of the play-off semi-final against Rotherham, producing a tactical masterclass as well as kicking four second-half goals to steer Bristol home. Robinson's ability to play flat in the face of the defence has taken the pressure off Bristol's midfield: an area where they have struggled to find a tried and tested combination.

11)  Wing: Miles Mantella (London Scottish)
The former Harlequins speedster scorched home for two hat-tricks on his way to a total of 19 tries in 23 league appearances. Possessing that 'x-factor' in attack whilst also being defensively sound has earned him a new two-year deal at the Athletic Ground.

12)  Centre: Juan Pablo Socino (Rotherham Titans)
A hat-trick of Dream XV nominations and the Championship Player of the Year award is a fine way for the wannabe Puma to round off what has been a superb campaign. The centre/fly-half was at the heart of everything good about Rotherham's play, scoring 312 points from 25 appearances. Rotherham's loss will be Newcastle's gain next season.

13)  Centre: Tom May (London Welsh)
A Falcon of the future is joined in the Dream XV midfield by one of the past in the form of May, whose experience and leadership qualities have helped London Welsh no end in their bid to bounce straight back to the Premiership. The club captain played a big part in establishing Welsh as the meanest defensive side in the league as well as chipping in with five tries from his 22 league appearances. Ben Mosses of Bristol was the man to just miss out.

14)  Wing: Tom Bowen (Plymouth Albion)
Bowen scored in Albion's opening day win over Jersey and never looked back. The 21-year-old finished the season as Albion's top try scorer with 16, earning him a full-time England Sevens contract in the process. Bristol's George Watkins ran Bowen close.

15)  Full-back: Stevie McColl (Leeds Carnegie)
Despite being injured for the best part of three months, the former Scotland Under-20 international gained 50% of the votes thanks to his strong running from full-back and ability to offload in the tackle. Made 14 Championship appearances and scored six tries in his third and final season at Headingley before joining Gloucester.

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