LONDON Welsh once harboured plans of becoming Oxfordshire’s premier rugby club and cementing their place in the top-flight, but now they are starting afresh at the same level as some of the county’s amateur sides.

The Exiles, who played at Oxford’s Kassam Stadium between 2012-15, were expelled from the Greene King IPA Championship in January after they were unable to satisfy Rugby Football Union (RFU) criteria for the second tier.

But they have now unveiled a new five-year plan to return to the National Leagues – steps 3, 4 and 5 – with their journey beginning at the same level as Oxford, Chipping Norton, Harwell and Faringdon.

Expelled from the professional game, the Exiles’ amateur side, which is a community outfit, also based at Old Deer Park in Richmond, continued to play and will now take on the London Welsh name.

The side, previously known as London Welsh Druids, play in Herts/Middlesex 1 – the equivalent of the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Championship of which Littlemore and Wheatley won promotion from this season.

Having previously put all their efforts into becoming an established Aviva Premiership side, the Exiles are now targeting a climb back up the rugby pyramid to match the level of Chinnor and Henley by 2022.

Former Wales international Sonny Parker, who played for the club in the top-flight, has been appointed director of rugby.

The 39-year-old said: “I want to help get the club back to where we want it to be, and I believe the five-year plan is an achievable one.

“Everyone within the club is really passionate about London Welsh, from the minis up through all of the amateur sides, and it’s that passion and ambition which has driven me to be a part of this.

“The existing squad is a good one, but we’re already talking to several players who are very keen to join us and who would augment the existing group.

“The first year is going to be the real indicator, but the ambition is definitely there to make the five-year plan a realisation.”

Gwyn Williams, chairman of London Welsh Amateur RFC, said: “The last few months have been a very difficult time for anyone connected with our club.

“With the season at a close, now is the time to begin a new chapter for the Dragon in Exile”.

Welsh moved to the Kassam Stadium in 2012 having won promotion to the Premiership.

Despite holding their own they were relegated to the Championship, but they bounced straight back up 12 months later.

However, the 2014-15 campaign proved disastrous as they failed to win a match and subsequently moved back to Old Deer Park.

The club’s liquidation in December last year, which did not affect their amateur side, resulted in a 20-point deduction.

A new company, Rugby 1885 Limited, was given a temporary licence by the RFU until January 24 to meet certain demands, including proof there was cash immediately available to pay rugby creditors in full.

But later that month, the sport’s governing body announced the Exiles’ expulsion from the professional game, with chairman Andy Cosslett saying their place in the league became “untenable” after they were unable to “satisfy conditions”.