London Welsh ready for Oxford move if they go up

 

London Welsh, the Championship team whose strong late-season form could cost Newcastle their seat at the top table of the English game, have been just a little coy about promotion plans for next season. Yesterday, they started to let on. The Exiles will play the home leg of their Championship final against Cornish Pirates at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford rather than at Old Deer Park in Richmond, which is not a stadium at all. If they win the title, they are likely to move there.

The Oxford venue may have been designed with football in mind, but rugby has been staged there – most notably in 2002, when Sale beat Pontypridd in the final of the European Challenge Cup, and in 2005, when the same Premiership side won the same prize by beating the Frenchmen of Pau.

"It offers high-quality playing and spectator facilities plus excellent floodlighting, which was a factor in the club's decision," said the Exiles' spokesman, Damian Dolan.

The first leg of the final will be in Penzance a week tomorrow, seven days before the return at the Kassam. Should the Pirates prevail on aggregate, Newcastle will remain in the top flight.

Plans for a professional-standard venue in Cornwall are beginning to take shape – the locals say there is a possibility of having something in place for the 2013-14 season – but as things stand the West Countrymen fail the criteria for promotion and cannot move up.

Four uncapped players were yesterday included in the Wales squad ahead of the match against the Barbarians in Cardiff and the three-Test series in Australia in June. The in-form Ospreys centre Ashley Beck will aim to take advantage of the latest injury problems suffered by the Lion Jamie Roberts. There are also places for the Scarlets full-back Liam Williams, the 19-year-old Cardiff Blues wing Harry Robinson and another Scarlet, the prop Rhodri Jones.

Next season's European finals will take place in Ireland, with the Amlin Challenge Cup decider going ahead at the Royal Dublin Showground as a support act for the Heineken Cup at the Aviva Stadium. The package should be worth in excess of €30m (£24m) to the local economy – not to be sniffed at in the current economic climate.

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