Newcastle Falcons have been promoted to the Premiership next season after the Rugby Football Union confirmed a “best playing record formula” will be used to determine all promotions and relegations across the country below the top tier.
The RFU will use the average points per home game and average points per away game for results up to 14 March and apply them to the remaining fixtures, with Newcastle’s 100 per cent record in the Championship guaranteeing them top spot and an immediate return to the Premiership.
With Saracens being relegated to the Championship next season – a move that will still go through following their salary cap breach – Newcastle will take their place in the top-flight, with the RFU confirming on Thursday that they have passed the Minimum Standards Criteria required to play in the Premiership, with the Professional Game Board taking last year's results into account for the decision.
There is still a concern that the financial implications caused by the coronavirus crisis over the coming months could significantly impact Newcastle’s immediate future. But the RFU officially confirmed on Thursday that the Kingston Park outfit will go up after finishing top of the second tier, having finished the prematurely-ended campaign 18 points clear of Ealing Trailfinders..
Speaking on a conference call on Thursday, RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney confirmed: “When the game stopped on 14 March, 80 per cent of the games had been played and we felt that the most fair and reasonable way to approach this was to apply a simple formula in terms of home record and away record, apply that to the balance of games outstanding and then announce promotion and relegation.
“We did consult the game; the overwhelming response was that they had a preference to go that route.”
It is understood that Ealing Trailfinders have no intention to follow up on any legal action after director of rugby Ben Ward admitted the west-London club had received counsel on whether they had a case or not, with all parties satisfied with how the promotion picture will play out.
With final tables due to be published on Friday, the RFU also confirmed that Yorkshire Carnegie will be relegated from the Championship, though director of rugby Phil Davies welcomed the development given the club have picked up just two points in a winless season and looked destined for the drop to National One regardless of the premature finish to the season.
“Unfortunately, relegation was inevitable given the results we had suffered this season but I do think it is a shame for the lads who gave so much this season that they have not had the chance to finish off the campaign,” Davies said in a statement. “I can only talk about since the turn of the year but I have seen how much hard work these lads have put in on a part time basis and there were shoots of recovery coming; it would have been great for them to get a win but obviously events for all of us have taken an unprecedented turn.
“Playing in National One next season offers us an opportunity to rebuild the club, reset our culture and principles and set the values we want to instil. We want to re-engage with the universities in our city, the general public and business’ in Leeds and find a new way to forge for the people of Leeds a Rugby Union club they can be proud of again.”
It has also been confirmed that the Tyrrells Premier 15s will be ruled void due to the absence of promotion and relegation, meaning that Saracens Women miss out on the title despite holding a two-point lead over Harlequins Women with six rounds remaining in the 2019/20 season.
RFU President, Peter Wheeler, said: “We believe that the decisions made provide fair and balanced outcomes for the game and maintain the integrity of the competitions. We have listened to recommendations from the heart of the game and the approach has been ratified by the RFU Council.
“This has been a difficult decision to make in the most unprecedented of circumstances. There is no single solution that will suit every club, but the approach taken is one that we believe best reflects the nature of league rugby in England.
“With 80 per cent of the season complete for the community game, we believe our approach is fair and the right one for our leagues. We have clubs that are clear league leaders and those who have said they would benefit from relegation to play more meaningful rugby.”
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