LONDON Welsh’s Aviva Premiership fate this season could effectively be decided at a disciplinary hearing next Tuesday.
The top-flight newcomers are engaged in a relegation scrap with Sale Sharks and London Irish and have only six games left.
But the Exiles, who play at Oxford’s Kassam Stadium, will now face a Rugby Football Union competitions hearing next week after being charged with fielding an ineligible player, scrum-half Tyson Keats, in “a number” of Premiership games.
English rugby’s governing body also said that Welsh’s former rugby manager, Mike Scott will face a hearing relating to the registration of the player.
Keats has featured in the matches where Welsh have won 21 of their 22 points this season.
A club statement read: “The matter was brought to the RFU’s attention by London Welsh after the club conducted an internal investigation earlier this month.
“The club’s former rugby manager Mike Scott is the subject of a separate RFU disciplinary hearing relating to the registration of the same player and has been charged under RFU Rule 5.12 for ‘conduct prejudicial to the interests of the union or the game’.
“That case will be heard at a later date.
“The club would like to stress that no fault in this matter resides with the player.”
New Zealander Keats, 31, joined Welsh from now-defunct Italian club Aironi in September and has largely been their first-choice scrum half since.
A possible precedent was set in 2009 when for Sale were deducted one point and fined £5,000 for fielding an unregistered player against Harlequins.
London Welsh chief executive Tony Copsey said: “This is obviously a serious matter which the club has not only brought to the attention of the RFU, but is also working closely with the RFU to provide full co-operation whilst the case is being prepared and ultimately heard next week.
“Due to the sensitive nature and the impending hearing the club is unable to make any further comment at this time.”
The hearing will take place in London.