Exiles confident of meeting criteria
Championship title contenders London Welsh are confident they will be eligible to play Aviva Premiership rugby next season.
The Richmond-based club go into this weekend's play-off second leg against Bedford holding a 10-point lead. If they prevail, then Cornish Pirates or Bristol will await them in the final, with the former 21 points up following the first leg on home soil last Monday.
While Bristol are thought to meet Premiership entry criteria, neither the Pirates nor Bedford even put themselves forward for the RFU's audit, and there has been speculation that London Welsh might also fall short in that department. But club chairman Bleddyn Phillips and the London Welsh board have now moved to quash any suggestion they would not satisfy Premiership standards.
Should they be crowned Championship winners later this month, it is thought their preferred option for a Premiership facility away from their current Old Deer Park home is to ground-share with Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop.
London Welsh have never previously played in the Premiership, but they are enjoying a revival under former Ospreys head coach Lyn Jones.
"So far as London Welsh are concerned, we have co-operated fully with PMP Legacy, the consultants appointed by the RFU and Premiership Rugby, and have given them every assistance to conduct an audit on two grounds we are considering for use next season in the event we win the Championship," said Phillips in a statement.
"London Welsh have also had discussions with two other clubs whose grounds it believes would already satisfy the MSC (minimum standards criteria) and would thus not require a technical audit (indeed, these grounds have in the past season hosted, for example, Premiership and Heineken Cup games).
"As regards primacy of tenure, London Welsh have expressed to the RFU and Premiership Rugby our complete confidence that we will be in a position to effect any necessary arrangements in a timely fashion to satisfy also any such requirements, and well in advance of the start of the next season, to enable the Aviva Premiership fixture list to be prepared in the usual manner.
"London Welsh have thus far not been advised by PMP Legacy, the RFU or Premiership Rugby that we would not be considered suitable to play in the Premiership should we win the Championship.
"Indeed, we have engaged in the play-offs in the good faith and understanding that having submitted ourselves to the audit process we would be eligible for promotion if we win the Championship."