Welsh ready for new challenge
The RFU had initially ruled that because the Championship Grand Final winners did not have primacy of tenure at their proposed home ground, they would not be permitted to play at the top level.
It appeared as though Welsh were destined for another season outside of the top flight, while Newcastle Falcons were celebrating a reprieve as their Premiership status appeared to have been preserved, despite them finishing bottom of the table.
But the London outfit launched an appeal and were successful in gaining what many rugby previews believed was their rightful place in the Premiership, and condemning the Falcons to relegation.
All eyes will be on Oxford on the opening week of the new season, and head coach Lyn Jones is confident that the team can compete with the very best in English club rugby.
“We’re excited about the new challenge and we’re fully aware of how difficult it’s going to be,” said Jones, a former Neath player, who was capped five times by Wales.
“The quality of player is higher and more consistent. Physical size could be an issue and our boys are very much aware that they’ve got to get bigger, and they’ve been working at it during the summer.”
Online bets and trends suggest that it won’t get any easier for the Exiles in week two, when they face last season’s table-toppers Harlequins.
But the newly-promoted side can take heart from the fortunes of Exeter Chiefs, who took their place in the Premiership just two years ago and are now preparing for their first ever Heineken Cup campaign.
Sharing their home with Oxford United, Welsh hope to be able to count on the support of the city’s football fans, and have already unveiled a series of discounts available to local season ticket holders.
These days, a successful Premiership side is more than just a winning team. They must have the infrastructure in the place, the fan base to fund their ambitions and a sustainable business plan to take the club forward.
And, though Welsh remain some distance from being the finished article, they certainly have the hunger and the potential to cement their position as one of England’s leading rugby clubs.
Guest Author: Tom
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