Welsh primed for promotion push
May 29, 2012
Welsh flyer Joe Ajuwa crossed last week in Penzance for the London-based side © Getty Images
London Welsh stand on the brink of winning the RFU Championship but will need to be at their best if they are to capitalise on their 37-21 advantage when they face the Cornish Pirates at the Kassam Stadium on Wednesday.
Welsh blew away the Pirates at their Mennaye Stadium home last week but it was only, in effect, the first-half of the play-off final. The return leg is not at London Welsh's traditional Old Deer Park home, but instead at the Kassam Stadium - the ground they submitted to the Rugby Football Union as their chosen option if they win the Championship.
The RFU deemed last week that the ground failed to reach the minimum standards criteria necessary for promotion to the Premiership, and while Welsh look set to appeal this decision, they will have to overcome the Pirates first. Exiles winger Nick Scott, who has this week penned a deal to make his loan move from Bath a permament switch to London Welsh, is adamant that the players are staying focused despite the off-field tussle regarding the club's prospects next season.
"What we have to concentrate on is making sure we get the in the second leg and then the board can put the pressure on the RFU to make the fair and right decision," Scott told the Rugby Paper. "There is definitely the talent in the squad to make it in the Premiership, you just need to look at the guys like Ed Jackson and Hudson Tonga'uiha.
"We really want that chance to play in the Premiership and if we do, regardless of how Welsh get on, there are several players who won't be coming back down once people have seen what they can do."
They hold a 16-point advantage and have kept the bulk of the side which dispatched the Cornish outfit last week. Alex Davies starts at fullback with Scott and Joe Ajuwa on the wings. Try-scoring duo from last week Hudson Tonga'uiha gets the nod at inside centre with James Lewis at inside. Gordon Ross guides the side from fly-half with Rob Lewis at scrum-half. Max Lahiff, Dan George and James Tideswell start in the front-row with Martin Purdy and Matt Corker in the second-row. Jon Mills skippers the side at blindside with Mike Denbee and Ed Jackson completing the line-up.
The Pirates' future is similarly uncertain with the Cornwall County council opting against granting £10m of public money to help build the Stadium for Cornwall. While the Pirates did not apply for promotion this year, they will still be keen on preventing the Exiles from winning the league.
The Penzance outfit have shuffled their pack with Phil Burgess switching to the centres and hooker Dave Ward replacing him at openside. Rob Elloway comes in at hooker with Jon Mills captaining the side at blindside.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Firdose Moonda talks to Rob Louw about the difficulties of being a South African touring New Zealand at the height of Apartheid
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games