Pre­mier ring-fenc­ing just ‘wish­ful think­ing’

Warwickshire Telegraph - - SPORT - By NicK pUreWaL

ENGLISH rugby bosses have shut the door on Premier­ship pro­mo­tion and rel­e­ga­tion be­ing scrapped this sea­son.

The Rugby Foot­ball Union’s (RFU) in­terim chief ex­ec­u­tive Nigel Melville branded the idea “wish­ful think­ing”, af­ter some Premier­ship clubs were un­der­stood to be push­ing for the English top-flight to be ring-fenced.

Just four points sep­a­rate the bot­tom seven teams of the 12-strong Premier­ship, set­ting up per­haps the tens­est rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle in the league’s his­tory.

In­terim RFU boss Melville in­sisted there is no chance of the rules be­ing ripped up for this sea­son, and that pro­mo­tion and rel­e­ga­tion will re­main in place this term.

Asked if pro­mo­tion and rel­e­ga­tion could be halted for this sea­son, Melville replied: “I think that’s called think­ing isn’t it?

“Sud­denly peo­ple want some­thing to hap­pen now. Well, no, that’s not how it works.

“It’s a com­pe­ti­tion reg­u­lated

wish­ful by the RFU. Should Pre­mier Rugby want to change their struc­ture, they can bring that to the PGB (Pro­fes­sional Game Board) for a vote there and then it would be put to the (RFU) Coun­cil.

“Noth­ing is go­ing to change as re­gards this sea­son.

“I won­der why this week we’re talking about pro­mo­tion and rel­e­ga­tion?

“You look at the ta­ble and you can see why, with six or seven teams sep­a­rated by four points.

“It’s a re­ally ex­cit­ing Premier­ship. Hav­ing been a coach I can tell you it’s far more com­fort­able sit­ting at the top of the league than the bot­tom.

“Some­times we can focus too much on the bot­tom, be­cause peo­ple fail if teams go down. But it is ex­tremely com­pet­i­tive.

“The stan­dard of rugby might be squeezed a bit as things be­come more tense.

“It’s a funny old sea­son, but that’s the way it works.”

For­mer Gloucester coach and USA Rugby chief Melville has stepped up to be­come the RFU’s in­terim chief ex­ec­u­tive, af­ter Steve Brown’s res­ig­na­tion.

Melville in­sisted he has given no thought to as­sum­ing the role per­ma­nently, with Brown depart­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion on De­cem­ber 21.

Melville ex­pects to re­main in his in­terim role through next year’s Six Na­tions, while the re­cruit­ment process rages on.

Asked whether he would be in­ter­ested in tak­ing the chief ex­ec­u­tive role per­ma­nently, Melville replied: “Do you know what? I haven’t had time to think about it, it’s been a very busy time, there’s lots of things go­ing on.

“So I’ve been pretty busy on the au­tumn, and there’s a lot to look at ahead, so I haven’t re­ally thought it through.”

Nigel Melville

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