Sale Sharks are no longer the Aviva Premiership basement boys after London Welsh were deducted five points for fielding an ineligible player.
The Welsh side played 31-year-old Tyson Keats in ten games, despite the Kiwi being registered incorrectly, and the club have been fined £15,000.
The issue was decided at the RFU’s disciplinary hearing on Tuesday, and includes a further five-point deduction, suspended until the end of next season.
The Sharks have been rooted to the foot of the table for the majority of the campaign, but now find themselves two points above London Welsh with five games remaining.
Director of rugby Steve Diamond would undoubtedly have preferred to move out of the relegation zone through their own merit, but the decision will be welcomed at Barton.
The Welsh side are now relegation favourites, with two tough away trips to Gloucester and Bath on the horizon this month.
Sale on the other hand will have home advantage in their next game against Bath, before a trip to fellow strugglers London Irish.
Keats was born in New Zealand, but was reportedly registered as English, despite being on an ancestry visa as one of his grandparents was born in the UK.
London Welsh are also facing a charge against their former manager Mike Scott, for allegedly providing false information about Keats’s registration.
The Exiles – who only arrived in the Aviva Premiership this season after a legal battle – will now have 14 days to appeal against the verdict made by the disciplinary panel.
Image courtesy of Sale Sharks, via YouTube, with thanks