Leicester survival hero Guy Thompson believes Premiership Rugby and the RFU would make a huge error of judgement if automatic promotion and relegation is scrapped.
With talks over the future structure of English rugby ongoing, Thompson’s match-winning try against fellow relegation battlers Newcastle last week provided Tigers with some vital breathing space in their fight to avoid the humiliation of demotion into the second tier.
However, despite his side’s proximity to the basement and the potential cost of relegation, former Jersey back row Thompson insists ring-fencing is not the answer.
He said: “I don’t think they should ring-fence it because when you look at our game against Newcastle, it was an outstanding match because there was so much on the line. That’s what spectators want but closing things off would ruin that.
“There is an argument to do it and I understand that, but even though I’m in the thick of a relegation battle, I’ll still support promotion and relegation because I’ve been in the Championship myself and if there isn’t that carrot of going up, what are we playing for?
“Teams like Ealing are investing a lot of money and bringing players through who want to push up to the Premiership – it just adds extra spice to what we’re doing.”
Thompson believes halting relegation would weaken the Premiership product, adding: “The atmosphere at Newcastle was unbelievable. Both sets of supporters were superb and they created lots of energy, but without relegation it wouldn’t have been anything like that.
“It was a really special game and although we’re not happy with where we are in the league right now, it was one of the most important games I’ve ever played in.
“Some will disagree and say what’s the point of a team going down, only to come straight back up? But Exeter came through and now they’re top of the league and consistently one of the best teams in England. With ring-fencing, they wouldn’t have had a chance.”
Thompson – a proven escapologist after scoring a crucial try for Jersey against Doncaster six years ago that helped keep his old side in the Championship – believes Leicester still have work to do despite having moved eight points clear of Newcastle.
He said: “I still remember that game for Jersey against Doncaster because nobody had given us a chance of staying up in 2012/13, but we sent Donny down instead.
“It’s one of my favourite games but there’s no secret about getting out of these positions, it’s just about working hard and making sure everyone’s on the same page.
“It’ll be the same approach against Bristol next week, only they play a bit differently to Newcastle because they tend to run the ball a lot. We’ll need to formulate a game plan to deal with that and be well prepared for what is another huge game.”
Leicester’s improved defensive display at Newcastle followed the arrival of Mike Ford.
Thompson added: “Mike hasn’t brought in anything too dramatic, he’s just introduced a little bit more clarity into what we’re doing and he’s been working really well with Geordan Murphy and Phil Blake to make sure we shore up our defending.
“Despite all the criticism flying around, that shone through at Newcastle and although we’re still in a bad position, that win really raised morale.”
NEALE HARVEY / Photo: Getty Images
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