/ English Club Rugby

/ Features

English rugby
Premiership promotion on the line
ESPN Staff
April 16, 2014
Bristol's George Watkins in action against title-rivals London Welsh earlier in the season © Getty Images

With just two rounds left in the English Championship season, the teams who will enter the play-offs desperate for promotion to the Aviva Premiership have already been decided.

Bristol, London Welsh, Leeds Carnegie and Rotherham Titans are the four who will contest the semi-finals, with Premiership strugglers Worcester Warriors almost certain to be replacing them in the Championship next season.

Bristol take on London Welsh while Leeds meet Rotherham this weekend in a crucial set of fixtures as the season nears its climax. With promotion on the line, here are Scrum's predictions for the clubs' chances of reaching, then staying in, the Premiership.


The Championship leaders sit four points clear at the top of the table and director of rugby Andy Robinson is certainly preparing for life in the Premiership next season.

The club have been bringing in big-name signings on an almost weekly basis, the stand-out being former Wales captain Ryan Jones. He is joined by players with an abundance of international experience, including former Wales team-mate Dwayne Peel and Samoa's Anthony Perenise. And Bristol do not seem to be finished with their recruitment drive just yet, with reports linking them to international players such as Olly Barkley and Adam Jones.

With owner Steve Lansdown providing the funds, Robinson is assembling a squad that certainly looks capable of winning promotion and staying in the top division for the long term. Newcastle Falcons beware.

Championship prediction: First, champions
Chances of Premiership survival: High

London Welsh

The most recent of the four promotion hopefuls to taste Premiership experience, London Welsh have managed to keep a tight ship after relegation from the top flight last season.

Defence coach Ollie Smith, who arrived in December last year, has overseen the meanest defence in the league with the Exiles having conceded 40 fewer points than the next best, London Scottish.

The Exiles have been on a shopping spree of their own, announcing eight signings last month. None of the new men boasts the same international experience as the likes of Ryan Jones, but in players such as Tyson Keats they have at least added Premiership know-how to the squad.

However, after last season's Premiership campaign saw them relegated by 10 points, they will be hard pressed to survive if they manage to clamber back into the league in September.

Championship prediction: Second, losing finalists
Chances of Premiership survival: Low

Leeds Carnegie

Leeds have been undergoing something of a rebrand this year with chairman Sir Ian McGeechan announcing a new board and name change for next season. Yorkshire Carnegie, as the new Leeds will be known, will continue to play their rugby at Headingley Stadium but will focus on creating a Yorkshire-wide rugby set-up in what is a fertile breeding ground for the sport.

They sit third in the Championship, level on points with fellow Yorkshiremen Rotherham. The two clubs meet each other on Sunday in a crucial match as both try to avoid playing the league leaders, likely to be Bristol, in the play-off semi-finals.

Leeds have Premiership pedigree and the facilities to thrive in the top flight, something that cannot be said for the likes of Rotherham. But with all the off-field distractions next season, staying in the Premiership would be a big ask if they somehow secure promotion.

Championship prediction: Third, losing semi-finalists
Chances of Premiership survival: Low

Rotherham Titans

Rotherham last tasted Premiership rugby in 2003-4 when they were relegated with a paltry three points, making Worcester's current season look rather successful in comparison.

Since then, the Titans have been Championship stalwarts, staying in the division for a decade. This season they have presented a real attacking threat, scoring more points than anyone other than leaders Bristol.

While promotion would seem unlikely this year, the Titans will have some reorganising to do if they pull off an upset. With a capacity of 2,500, their Clifton Lane ground is too small for Aviva Premiership standards, which demand a stadium with space for 10,000. Rotherham are understood to have agreed terms on a groundshare with Barnsley Football Club, but the experience of London Welsh and their relocation to Oxford shows that such a move could come at a cost in terms of fanbase. Will Rotherham supporters really appreciate the half hour drive out of town to watch their team in a half-empty stadium?

Championship prediction: Fourth, losing semi-finalists
Chances of Premiership survival: Non-existent

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.

  • Latest
  • Most Viewed
  • News
  • Features
  • Rugby

    Ashton and Wyles ease Saracens to Wembley win

    Chris Wyles and Chris Ashton grabbed two tries apiece as Saracens earned a bonus-point victory over Harlequins 42-14 in front of a record crowd for a domestic rugby match at Wembley

  • Rugby

    Irish cling on to withstand Falcons fightback

    London Irish clung on to defeat Newcastle Falcons 22-21 and claim only their third home victory this season

  • Rugby

    Stade Francais earn crucial Clermont win

    Stade Francais ended a run of three defeats in their past four matches with a stunning victory against second-placed Clermont Auvergne, running in five tries to win 40-26 and consolidate third place in the Top 14

  • Rugby

    England held to draw by USA as Portugal stun All Blacks

    England reached the quarter finals of the Cathay Pacific-HSBC Hong Kong Sevens after qualifying second from Pool D following an entertaining 21-21 draw with USA

  • Formula 1

    Massa frustrated by Williams' wet weather pace

    Felipe Massa says Williams is still "too slow" in the wet after he could only qualify seventh in Malaysia

  • Football

    A Klose call

    Miroslav Klose scored goals in the World Cup final tournaments of 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014. Has anyone else scored World Cup goals 12 years apart?

  • Formula 1

    F1 cost cutting: Not putting money where the mouth is

    Mudslinging and an agreement on something that will never happen, it's all in a day's work for a Formula One boss, as Maurice Hamilton explains...

  • Formula One

    Tough at the top

    Who has driven in the most GPs before taking pole position?

  • Rugby

    Unsavoury sledging did not end with Potgieter

    Fallout continues from the NSW-Brumbies derby, with one Tahs forward - not Potgieter - surprised by other unsavoury comments during the game, Greg Growden reports

  • Rugby

    Super Rugby preview, team news, line-ups: Round 7

    Greg Growden previews Super Rugby round 7. We've also got key stats, team news and all the line-ups to inform your ESPN Footytips Super Rugby picks

  • News
  • Features

Sponsored Links

Make Huge Income from your Home
Download your Free Guide And Learn How To Increase Your Monthly Income