New era beckons for Yorkshire Carnegie in National One, insists Phil Davies
Having cancelled the remainder of the season two weeks ago owing to Covid-19, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) today announced the final league positions would be calculated on a best-playing record formula.
It maintains promotion and relegation will occur throughout the divisions and – with bottom-placed Carnegie having lost all 14 Championship games this term – Davies’ side have officially dropped into National League One for 2020-21.
It is a dramatic fall from grace for the club who, under the Welshman’s first period in charge, rose from the lower echelons to the Premiership, finishing as high as fourth in 2003.
That saw them earn Heineken Cup rugby and they also won the Powergen Cup at Twickenham two years later.
However, they have been out of the top flight since 2011 and, after hitting major financial problems last year, became a part-time operation this term.
Davies, who returned to the club in January, said: “Unfortunately, relegation was inevitable given the results we had suffered this season.
“But it is a shame for the lads who gave so much this season that they have not had the chance to finish off the campaign. I can only talk about since the turn of the year but I’ve seen how much hard work these lads have put in on a part-time basis and there were shoots of recovery coming.
“This is an end of one era that has seen the club rise to the top two divisions, win a Cup at Twickenham, play amongst the elite in Europe, produce numerous internationals as well as offering countless chances for local players to play professional rugby union.
“But it is time now for a new era. Playing in National One next season offers us an opportunity to rebuild the club, reset our culture and principles and set the values we want to instil.
“We want to re-engage with the universities in our city, the general public and businesses in Leeds and find a new way to forge for the people of Leeds a rugby union club they can be proud of again.”
Carnegie have been beset by problems over the last 12 months – their points difference ended up at minus 528, an average losing margin of over 37 points per game – and there were fears the club would dissolve after suffering the drop.
But Davies maintains a contingency plan has always been in place and, as they prepare to face the likes of Cinderford and Blackheath, he is ready to start with the rebuild.
“I have been working with the club’s management since my return to formulate a new way forward and clearly being in National One was a likely outcome, so nothing has changed there,” he said, with the club due to relocate away from Emerald Headingley. “It is time to look ahead and find a new way of operating.
“Last week I put a call out to people to get in touch from our old boys’ network and it’s been heartening to see the response. Lads from all over the world have got in touch with me, offering their support and asking what they can do. Our challenge is to give them something they can get enthusiastic about.”
The RFU have confirmed leaders Newcastle Falcons will be promoted into the Premiership but the final league standings of all the divisions will not be published until 6pm tomorrow.
The RFU believes the approach “best reflects the nature of league rugby in England” and are “fair and balanced”.