Newcastle Falcons are downplaying their return to the Gallagher Premiership after the RFU confirmed on Thursday that the north-east England club would replace Saracens in the top flight for 2020/21.

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Falcons were sitting 18 points clear of rivals Ealing in second before the RFU called off the remainder of the Championship season due to the coronavirus outbreak which resulted in Newcastle last week placing all players and staff on furlough – a period of unpaid leave.

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Ealing Trailfinders director of rugby Ben Ward had floated the possibility of a legal challenge if Newcastle were promoted to the Premiership without the season playing out.

However, the RFU have ignored that threat and have confirmed that unbeaten Newcastle will move up from the Championship after applying a best playing record formula to determine final placings for the season.

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Newcastle chairman Semore Kurdi said: “These aren’t the circumstances under which any team would want to be promoted, but we thank the RFU for reaching a quick and decisive conclusion.

“We fully appreciate the bigger picture with regards to the ongoing pandemic, and how sport pales into insignificance during times of national emergency.

“With that in mind there is no real sense of celebration at the confirmation of our promotion – our thoughts just go out to everyone who has been affected by the whole situation.

“I would like to express my appreciation and personal gratitude for all the hard work undertaken by our players and staff prior to the season being prematurely halted, and thank our supporters, sponsors and stakeholders for sticking with us.

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“This huge collective effort enabled us to produce an incredible campaign which saw us winning every single game – 15 in the league and a further seven in the cup.

“We thank everyone for their patience and understanding during this uncertain time as we all deal with issues which are far bigger than rugby. 

“We are doing our best to manage our way through this situation with everyone’s best interests at heart, and in the meantime would just urge everyone to stay safe and continue to follow government advice.”

Proposals from the RFU governance committee to conclude the season for all leagues at professional and community level below the Premiership were ratified by the RFU Council.

RFU president Peter Wheeler, said: “We believe that the decisions made provide fair and balanced outcomes for the game and maintain the integrity of the competitions. We have listened to recommendations from the heart of the game and the approach has been ratified by the RFU council.

“This has been a difficult decision to make in the most unprecedented of circumstances. There is no single solution that will suit every club, but the approach taken is one that we believe best reflects the nature of league rugby in England.

“With 80 per cent of the season complete for the community game, we believe our approach is fair and the right one for our leagues. We have clubs that are clear league leaders and worthy of promotion, but also other clubs who have said they would benefit from relegation, to play more meaningful rugby.”

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