Premiership relegation: Bristol handed glimmer of hope
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Bristol could yet escape relegation from the English Premiership after the body that organises the second tier competition said neither Doncaster nor Ealing would be promoted if they secured the one place on offer.
Bristol have invested heavily in players and coaching staff - Ireland flyhalf Ian Madigan and highly-rated Samoan coach Pat Lam among them - for next season even though they are all but certain to finish bottom and normally would mean relegation.
Bristol are 12 points adrift of second from bottom Worcester with two games remaining.
Neither Doncaster nor Ealing pass muster because the Championship declared they did not apply for a required independent audit that assesses clubs' promotion eligibility to the Premiership.
On the other hand London Irish and Yorkshire Carnegie, though, their opponents in the two-legged Championship play-offs applied and met minimum standards criteria.
London Irish, relegated from the Premiership last season, play Doncaster, while Yorkshire Carnegie meet Ealing. The final is also over two games on May 17 and May 24.
"The Rugby Football Union has considered the findings of an independent audit report of the Championship semifinalists assessing their eligibility for promotion to the Premiership next season," read a statement issued by the Championship.
"London Irish and Yorkshire Carnegie have met the minimum standards criteria to the satisfaction of the RFU based on the following stadia: Madejski Stadium [London Irish] and Headingley Carnegie [Yorkshire Carnegie].
"Ealing Trailfinders and Doncaster Knights did not apply for the audit and therefore cannot be promoted to the Premiership."