MX23RW : Thursday, December 13 00:07:47

RFU interim boss Melville calls Premiership ring-fencing 'wishful thinking'

Just four points separate the bottom seven teams of the 12-strong Premiership.

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 wishful thinking isn't it?

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

"It's a competition regulated 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.

Gloucester Coach Nigel Melville.
Nigel Melville dismissed talks of scrapping promotion and relegation (David Davies/PA)

"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."


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