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London Welsh to step up promotion fight

London Welsh are set to step up their fight for Aviva Premiership status after taking charge of the Championship final against Cornish Pirates.

The Exiles' sparkling 37-21 first leg victory in Penzance on Wednesday night has put them within touching distance of silverware. But the far bigger prize of a Premiership place will elude them, subject to any successful appeal or even possible court action.

Rugby Football Union directors have ratified findings of a report carried out by independent auditors that identified various London Welsh failures of Premiership minimum standards criteria.

These included not having primacy of tenure at their nominated Premiership ground - Oxford United's 12,500-capacity Kassam Stadium - where the second leg against Pirates takes place next Wednesday. The Pirates did not choose to have an independent audit of their Mennaye Field ground, so were therefore ineligible for promotion.

Welsh, whose chairman Bleddyn Phillips is a partner with the law firm Clifford Chance, have 14 days in which to lodge an appeal, and that process could soon get under way.

The club's board of directors responded to the RFU announcement by saying they will be "exploring all possible avenues off the pitch to ensure that if successful in winning the Championship, London Welsh will take its rightful place in the top flight of English rugby".

As things stand, though, Premiership bottom club Newcastle will remain among the elite next term with no promotion taking place from the second tier.

The London Welsh statement continued: "The club firmly believes that it has met the minimum standards criteria for promotion to the Premiership, particularly as regards the issue of primacy of tenure, and reaffirmed its belief in this respect in a detailed communication to the RFU as recently as Monday May 21 highlighting its case for having satisfied the MSC.

"The club has already sought clarification on this point. The detailed reasoning behind why primacy of tenure was not satisfied (among other things) having not yet been given by the RFU.

"The club is especially disappointed in this regard as a firm binding agreement, subject only to promotion to the Premiership, has already been concluded with Kassam Stadium - a ground with facilities the club believes to be at least the equal of many other grounds already hosting Premiership rugby."

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