HOLDERS Cornwall will need to see off Devon next year if they are claim a hat-trick of County Championship titles.
The Duchy, led by former Devon and Plymouth Albion coach Graham Dawe, have won the Bill Beaumont Cup for the past two seasons, but the competition is going to be revamped for the 2017 campaign.
Instead of just eight teams in two pools who all play each other, the top tier of the County Championship will feature 12 sides split into two groups of six – north and south. However, teams will only play three teams in their regional section. The best performing north and south side will reach the final at Twickenham. The format does mean it is possible a side could win all their matches and still not progress to the final.
Devon, finalists six times between 2000 and 2008, have been in the second tier since 2010, but have been promoted after finishing second in Division Two South last season with a joint coaching team that included new Albion coach Dan Parkes.
Devon will play Gloucestershire away on May 6, Cornwall at home the following week and Kent at home on May 20.
Cornwall only have one home game. They will open their defence with a trip to Surrey before crossing the Tamar to play Devon and ending their group campaign with a home match against Hertfordshire.