ITALIAN clubs Benetton Treviso and Zebre could be expelled from the Guinness Pro12, potentially opening the door for London Scottish and London Welsh to join the league.
London Scottish are desperate to return to “tier one” rugby and with their path to the Aviva Premiership blocked they may look elsewhere.
Treviso and Zebre owe €1.5 million to the other Pro12 clubs and must pay by the end of the month or face expulsion.
Both clubs indulged in similar brinkmanship last season and the Italian Rugby Federation threatened to withdraw the sides from the league.
A settlement was eventually reached but it was so late in the day that both sides found it hard to recruit players for the new season and subsequently struggled. They currently occupy the bottom two places in the Pro12.
As things stands, both exiles clubs are due to play in England’s second-tier Greene King IPA Championship next season. Welsh have been relegated from this season’s Aviva Premiership while Scottish finished third in the Championship and then lost in a promotion play-off semi-final to Worcester.
London Scottish’s home ground, the Athletic Ground, does not currently meet the criteria to play in England’s top flight.
London Scottish went bust in 1999 and started again at the bottom rung of the English game. Their chairman Sir David Reid said last week that the club was “hugely ambitious” to return to the top level.
He said: “London Scottish has made astonishing progress since 1999 but there is still work to be done before we can achieve our ultimate goal of returning to tier one rugby.”