HERTFORDSHIRE begin the new RFU County Championship season on Saturday, May 5 as they bid to reach the showpiece final at Twickenham Stadium on the day of the England v Barbarians match in May for the Bill Beaumont Cup.

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Division One of the Bill Beaumont Cup is the top tier of England’s County Championship in rugby union, and London & South East’s representatives Herts have a tough pool draw alongside Cornwall, Gloucestershire and North Midlands.

Herts made it all the way to last season’s final at Twickenham where they were beaten 32-23 by Lancashire as the red-rose county completed a hat-trick of victories.

Herts have the fillip of kicking off their 2012 campaign with two home fixtures, against North Midlands at Old Albanians on Saturday, May 5 and Cornwall at Hertford a week later, before the trip to Gloucestershire on May 19.

Eastern Counties and Kent will take part in Division Two of the Bill Beaumont Cup, which has its final at the home ground of Kent’s pool winner.

London & South East’s remaining participants Essex, Hampshire, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex will be competing in the County Championship Shield.

This Saturday (April 28) Essex travel to Market Harborough to face Leicestershire, while Middlesex host Hampshire at Staines, and Surrey meet Sussex at Sutton & Epsom.

A bonus point system has been introduced for the pool matches, with the winner of each match receiving four competition points.

There will be two points each for a draw, and a team will earn one bonus point by scoring four or more tries and one bonus point for losing by seven match points or less.

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