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Saturday, July 31, 1999 Published at 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK

Sport: Rugby Union

London Irish create first 'super club'

London Irish: "A strong and secure super club"

London Irish have created the English Premiership's first "super club" by merging with London Scottish and Richmond.

The new club will be known as London Irish, in recognition of what is effectively a takeover of the club's two smaller London rivals, but its strip will reflect the colours of all three teams.

An eleventh-hour attempt to preserve the separate identities of Richmond and London Scottish as Richmond Scottish fell through earlier this week, leaving the way open for the formation of the new side.

The two clubs will now disappear from Allied Dunbar Premiership One, reducing it from the current 14 clubs to just 12 - a move approved by both English First Division Rugby and the Rugby Football Union.

Rotherham protest

The new club's chairman, Geoff Read, said: "We are very pleased to have finalised the deal...we are looking forward to getting down to the challenge of winning some trophies."

The super club will be coached by Dick Best of London Irish and will share NEC Harlequins' Stoop Memorial Ground.

[ image: Richmond: Under administration]
Richmond: Under administration
Very few Scottish and Richmond players are expected to make it into Best's squad. Most have already moved to new clubs in the UK and abroad.

Meanwhile, the decision to allow the reduction of Premiership One to 12 teams is being contested by Rotherham, who missed out on promotion to the top division in a play-off at the end of last season.

The South Yorkshire club is arguing that it should now be promoted as the highest placed runner-up to fill one of the places vacated by Richmond and London Scottish.

Rotherham are hoping to force EFDR to honour the terms of the Mayfair Agreement, which establishes that there should be two Premiership divisions of 14 teams each.

'Best solution'

The case is due to be settled in the High Court in London on 16 August.

But EFDR chief executive, Howard Thomas, defended the super club merger, calling it the "best solution" for the Premiership and "the creditors of both London Scottish and Richmond".

The merger was allowed to come about after the two clubs ran into serious financial difficulties, with Richmond forced to call in administrators.

"The deal the three clubs have put together builds a strong and secure superclub ready to compete at the highest level with an excellent support base," said Thomas.

London Irish face Saracens on 12 September in their first league match of the new season.

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