Cornish Pirates 21-37 London Welsh, Championship Final, 1st leg
London Welsh set to fight RFU ruling
ESPN Staff
May 23, 2012
Former Ospreys head coach Lyn Jones, April 6, 2008
London Welsh boss Lyn Jones does not think his side's quest for promotion is over yet © Getty Images

London Welsh look poised to launch an appeal against a Rugby Football Union ruling that the club does not meet the minimum standard criteria for the Aviva Premiership.

The RFU announced their decision just six hours before London Welsh closed in on the Championship title with a thumping 37-21 victory over Cornish Pirates in the first leg of the second tier's season finale. RFU directors ratified findings of a report carried out by independent auditors that identified various London Welsh failures, including not having primacy of tenure at their nominated Premiership ground - Oxford United's 12,500-capacity Kassam Stadium.

London Welsh chairman Bleddyn Phillips, a partner with the law firm Clifford Chance, expressed his dismay at the decision ahead of tonight's game and hinted that the club will, as expected, launch an appeal within the two-week window afforded them.

"I was surprised and disappointed by the decision because as you are aware we have signed, legally-binding agreement with the Kassam Stadium and Oxford to play our games in the Premiership next season should we win on the pitch," said Phillips.

"The Kassam is a first class stadium it has not only hosts first class rugby games we know it also serves as home to Oxford United but it also served as a venue for the Amlin Challenge Cup Final a few years ago. So we know it ticks all the boxes for top-class rugby.

"What is interesting on the subject of primacy of tenure, and I should hasten to add that I have seen no more than anyone else in terms of details behind the reasoning of the RFU, so I am saying this without having the benefit of the detail and perhaps one should await the detail before commenting further, but in the absence of detail it seems to me the stadium is a top-class stadium and to those who might say it lacks primacy of tenure I may point to clubs like London Irish or Saracens or Sale or indeed other clubs in top flight rugby.

"I think there are three or four who share with football association grounds and for whom there seems to be no problem in satisfying that primacy of tenure question. To the RFU, who might say that those were specific exceptions made for those clubs a few years ago, one might ask as a newcomer well why not increase the exceptions or why should that preclude other clubs that win on the pitch and win the Championship from taking their place at the top table as well.

"If one reads the MSC criteria in detail, as we did, and you look at the relevant sections, it's basically about not being the landlord as such of the ground but having the ability to schedule games at a time that is convenient for broadcasting which we understand. In our agreement with the Kassam we specifically made reference, and the RFU have seen a copy, to a provision that would allow us to negotiate with the Kassam to make sure we would be able to schedule our games on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday between the hours specified in the MSC. So having specifically addressed that point in the agreement with the Kassam stadium, we are even more surprised that we don't satisfy the primacy of tenure condition."

Reflecting on a rollercoaster of a day that ended with a superb performance from his side, London Welsh head coach Lyn Jones said: "We came down here to be positive and I think the boys were rewarded for that. We knew how good the Pirates could be and we weathered that storm in the first ten minutes of each half, restricted them and applied ourselves to the game."

Jones also praised his players for shrugging off a major blow to their promotion hopes, but he does not expect the story to end here. "I'm paid at London Welsh to get out on the field and make these players better and make the team better and that is what I need to concentrate on," he said. "The players sat down and spoke about the disappointment and the unjust decision but I'm sure this story is going to roll for the next few days and I think it is best for me right now to keep my comments on the field."

Despite watching his side build a 16-point lead, the Exiles' boss is taking nothing for granted ahead of the second leg - that will also be staged at the Kassam Stadium. "I am very proud. It's not just this performance but about where we were in September and where we are now and the growth of these boys as individuals and a side. We finished fourth in the table for a reason, because we were fourth best over a duration of time but since then we have kicked on and picked our game up and I am delighted with the result and surprised to score 37 points away from home. But it's one long game of 160 minutes of which we are just at the half."

Pirates coach Ian Davies was also looking for positives having seen his side well-beaten. "In that first half we got caught up in the occasion and the big crowd," he said. "We started well, maybe too well and then sat back a bit.

"We know what we have got to do. We are certainly not favourites anymore if we were favourites going into this one. We can relax and play. Sixteen points is 16 points, let's see what happens."

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