FOOT OF THE TABLE – As we head toward end of the European rugby season, a lot of people are looking toward the playoffs and the battle at the top, which will continue for another few weeks and deep into May. However, there are 5 teams in England and France that just want to breathe sighs of relief come May 5 and May 12: The London Wasps and Newcastle Falcons of the Aviva English Premiership and Bordeaux Bègles, Bayonne and Lyon of the French Top 14. These five teams are in a fight to avoid… relegation.
For those not familiar with relegation, it is the demotion of the entire club. Imagine For the Americans out there, imagine the worst team being dropped to Triple A, replaced by the best team in Triple A. That means a team could go from playing against the Yankees and Dodgers to the Toledo Mudhens and the Buffalo Bisons. It affects the city, the fans, the workers, the merchants and, well… the money. Could you ever see Boston fans filling Fenway Park if their beloved Red Sox were swapped out for Pawtucket? Only the drunks. Wait… that’s all of Boston. Bad example.
The Battle in England is between Northern England’s Newcastle and the Southern (and Capital City) London Wasps. The Wasps are one of the oldest clubs in the history of rugby and have loads of tradition. However, they have had a horrible season with injuries, form and everything else. Newcastle was expected to drop as they are limited in talent, money and management. With two games left to go the standings are:
And here are the remaining matches:
Friday, 20 April 2012: Newcastle v Saracens, 19:45
Saturday, 21 April 2012: Bath v Wasps, 14:15
Saturday, 5 May 2012: Wasps v Newcastle, 15:00
While it’s possible it will come down to winner-takes-all on the last match day, it seems highly improbable. Saracens are not in great form but there is no way they go down to Newcastle. At best the Falcons get a loss with 1 bonus point for losing by less than 7. Wasps can beat Bath and if they do, then they avoid the drop, if they lose and get a bonus point then Newcastle would need to win and get the 4 try bonus point to avoid the drop and Newcastle has not shown that kind of firepower all season and I don’t see them showing it now.
Meanwhile in France
Three clubs are fighting to avoid the drop. Unfortunately, two will go down and only one will remain. With 3 games left the standings are:
And here are the remaining scheduled matches:
Fri – 20th Apr 12: 15:00 Bordeaux Bègles vs Agen… 15:00 Lyon vs Bayonne
Fri – 4th May 12: 15:00 Brive vs Bordeaux Bègles… 15:00 Bayonne vs Agen… 15:00 Perpignan vs Lyon
Sat – 12th May: 15:00 Lyon vs Toulon… 15:00 Castres vs Bayonne… 15:00 Bordeaux Bègles vs Perpignan
It is a foregone conclusion that newly-promoted Lyon will be back in Pro D2 next season – barring a miracle. Last I checked, miracles are in short supply. As for Bayonne and Bordeaux Bègles, both are quality clubs suffering a stunning loss of form.
Bayonne has been in Top 14 for a few years, so their place at the table has more to do with inconsistency along with injuries and suspensions. Bayonne are experienced enough to stay put. They are currently one place in the standings below Bordeaux-Begles – but by only 3 points.
Bordeaux Bègles were sitting in the 7th spot around mid-season. Unfortunately, their promotion to the top flight wore on them; squad depth and temperament were their undoing. To have a side that we here at RWU picked as a club to watch this season, we’re not ready to drop bet our francs on their being relegated.
The thought/hope (we don’t like looking bad) is for Brive to fall down and for the RWU favorite Bordeaux-Begles, to avoid being relegated. This all will be settled in an exciting finish, possibly as early as next week, when we will look at the teams fighting to get promoted in England and France, respectively. Until then, stay low and keep pumping those legs.