Aviva Premiership
London Welsh to mount Keats defence
ESPN Staff
March 3, 2013
London Welsh scrum-half Tyson Keats looks for the ball, London Welsh v Bath Rugby, Aviva Premiership, Kassam Stadium, Oxford, England, November 4, 2012
London Welsh believe Tyson Keats was eligible to play © PA Photos

London Welsh's defence against an RFU charge for fielding an ineligible player will centre on their belief that Tyson Keats was in fact eligible to play in the Aviva Premiership, according to reports.

The Premiership club face a potentially crucial Rugby Football Union competitions hearing on Tuesday, which could see them docked points that would put their top-flight status in severe danger.

Reports had suggested 31-year-old scrum-half was registered as an English player when he actually required a visa to play in the Aviva Premiership due to being born in New Zealand. However the Rugby Paper reports the Exiles will tell the hearing that Keats, while was wrongly registered as 'English' was in England on an 'ancestral visa' and therefore eligible to play in the Premiership.

Keats, who has played 13 Premiership matches for the Exiles since joining from the now-defunct Italian side Aironi, has never played for New Zealand. Consequently if London Welsh can prove he was eligible to play professionally in the Premiership due to having a British grandparent, they could qualify for England Qualified Player (EQP) payments as he would technically be available to play for England.

London Welsh also, reportedly, hope the fact that they brought the situation regarding Keats' eligibility to the attention of the RFU, and not the other way around, could count in their favour.

If London Welsh, who are second bottom in the table and just three points above Sale Sharks, are docked points it would be a massive blow in their fight for Premiership survival.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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