Following a hugely successful season which has seen Bedford Blues finishing fourth in the league to set up a play-off encounter with Bristol, Jake Sharp and Pat Tapley have been included in the Greene King IPA Championship Dream Team.
Opposition coaches voted that fly-half Sharp and winger Tapley had performed the best in their respective positions throughout the 2015-16 campaign.
The three other Championship semi-finalists are well represented too, with call-ups for table-topping Bristol trio Gaston Cortes, Jack Lam and Tom Varndell, while Doncaster’s Will Hurrell and Ben Hunter are included, along with Yorkshire Carnegie no 8 Ryan Burrows flying the flag for the Leeds-based side.
London Welsh’s Josh McNally and Josh Thomas Brown of London Scottish make up an all-Exiles second row.
Both clubs also have a player apiece in the Dream XV back division in Guy Armitage and Pete Lydon, while Jersey’s Newcastle-bound Sam Lockwood is the only player to retain his place from last year.
PROP: SAM LOCKWOOD (JERSEY)
Destructive scrummager whose ball carrying ability and work rate in defence has earned him a move to Premiership outfit Newcastle. Claimed 50% of the votes.
HOOKER: BEN HUNTER (DONCASTER KNIGHTS)
Combative hooker who has been one of the cornerstones of the Knights’ pack. Has kept Fijian World Cup player Vili Veikoso on the sidelines for most of the season. Marc Jones came an honourable second.
PROP: GASTON CORTES (BRISTOL RUGBY)
Tough-as-teak Argentinean who takes no prisoners at scrum-time or at the breakdown. Pushed close for his place by Jersey’s Simon Kerrod and Doncaster veteran Colin Quigley.
LOCK: JOSH MCNALLY (LONDON WELSH)
Hard-working, ex-RAF lock who grew as a player as the season progressed and played an important role in turning around London Welsh’s fortunes.
LOCK: JOSH THOMAS BROWN (LONDON SCOTTISH)
Superb lineout technician and a larger than life character who brings so much energy to the group on and off the pitch.
FLANKER: LATU MAKAAFI (DONCASTER KNIGHTS)
Tough-tackling Tongan international who carries the fight to the opposition week in week out. Has weighed in with 17 tries, the second best return in the league.
FLANKER: JACK LAM (BRISTOL RUGBY)
Continued his fine form from last season after returning to the club from World Cup duty with Samoa. A superb ball-carrying, big-hitting openside who is one of Bristol’s main pack leaders.
NO.8 RYAN BURROWS (YORKSHIRE CARNEGIE)
Skittles opponents at will with his destructive runs from the base of the scrum. A real crowd-pleaser who never seems to have a bad game. Burrows’ inclusion ends Mark Bright’s three-year run in the Dream XV.
SCRUM-HALF: MICHAEL HEANEY (DONCASTER KNIGHTS)
His lightening quick service has been one of the key reasons why Doncaster’s back line has fired so well this season. Defends well for a small man and knows when to go himself. Edged out Bristol’s Will Cliff.
FLY-HALF: JAKE SHARP (BEDFORD BLUES)
Top level coach in the making due to his ability to read the game so well. Scored over 128 points in the regular season and set up a hatful of tries for his team-mates with his astute kicking game and distribution skills. Accumulated more votes than any other player.
CENTRE: WILL HURRELL (DONCASTER KNIGHTS)
All hustle and bustle in midfield, Hurrell has consistently given the Knights go-forward in attack with his ability to run the hard yards and pump his legs through the tackle.
CENTRE: GUY ARMITAGE (LONDON WELSH)
Powerful specimen who can mix it with the best physically but also possesses the pace to beat defenders on the outside if needed. Off to Wasps after a hugely impressive season-long loan deal at the Exiles. Bedford’s Michael Le Bourgeois was in the running too.
WINGER: TOM VARNDELL (BRISTOL RUGBY)
Scored more tries than any other winger in the Championship with 12 from 19 league appearances. Still a class finisher.
WINGER: PAT TAPLEY (BEDFORD BLUES)
Out-and-out pace merchant who makes breaks for fun. Big and strong enough to take any punishment that comes his way.
FULL-BACK: PETE LYDON (LONDON SCOTTISH)
Won no less than four matches for the Exiles with late kicks. An ever-present for Scottish, at full-back or fly-half, Lydon finished the season as the league’s second top points scorer with 182 points and fully deserved his club’s Player of the Year award.