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Maidenhead RFC coach Mobbs-Smith says RFU 'had to look at the bigger picture' after side misses out on second place by the barest of margins

David Mobbs-Smith has admitted he has some sympathy with the Rugby Football Union (RFU) over the formula they used to calculate teams’ final league places, even if it cost Maidenhead a shot at promotion.

Maids were placed second in the South West Premier after their crushing win over leaders Barnstaple, but the arrival of coronavirus brought the season to a premature close and has seen them finish behind Weston-super-Mare in third thanks to some mathematical wizardry on behalf of the RFU.

Using the best playing record formula, taking into account expected results for the sides remaining games on the basis of a mathematical formula, Maids were squeezed into third place by the barest of margins with 73.33 points to Weston’s 73.47. Barnstaple were runaway winners on this system and promoted to the league above.

Had they finished second Maids would have played a virtual play-off against Guernsey, but, based on the respective side’s points for the season that would have given the Chanel Island team victory and seen them promoted so it would have made little difference.

Mobbs-Smith had more sympathy for the teams that were relegated off the back of this method, with derby rivals Bracknell and Newbury both going down from the South West Premier.

“I don’t think it would have made any difference for us because we’d have been pitted against Guernsey and they would have been said to have won the play-off,” he said.

“Guernsey got it against Weston, and it would have been the same against us, so they play-offs are done this season.

“People will forget who got relegated and promoted, but this will always be remembered as the coronavirus season.

“The RFU had to look at the bigger picture. And they had to look at all leagues and come up with an equation which works out your home and away average. The formula they came up with gave Weston some points obviously, enough to reel in two sides. But I felt sorry for the teams that were relegated, with some of them even finishing on the same number of points as those that stayed up.

“We possibly had some form going into the final weeks and would have played better rugby in the better weather on dry pitches. That would have favoured us but it doesn’t matter, it’s done and dusted. They had to come up with something because they couldn’t play the season out.

“You can squeeze professional sport into a four week window in July, because of the sponsors, but for community rugby they had to come up with a plan. They wanted to finish the season virtually, or mathematically and this is what they came up with.”

All of Mobbs-Smith’s coaching roles are temporarily on hold due to the coronarvirus lockdown, although a team he coaches in Sweden is still able to train and take part in coaching activities. For the most part he is housebound due to the UK’s social distancing guidance, however, that hasn’t stopped him from trying to get a head start on Maids’ rivals for when next season does get back underway.

“Obviously you can still do some recruitment and talk to players,” he said. “But all the teams will be doing the same thing. Everyone will be treating the season as if it will start again at some point.

“But it’s more about the care of players. If we can’t start pre-season in mid-July at the latest I can’t see the season starting on time in the first week of September. You’re going to have some very unfit people coming back to play rugby and you need six weeks of pre-season at least. Certain individuals won’t train well unless they’re in a group situation and there will be players who are doing absolutely nothing right now when they would have been playing.

“I’m sure the RFU are looking at contingencies for if the season starts late. If the season was to start at the end of September we could probably play on into May. But if the season was to start in November, maybe the teams would play against each other just once, either home or away (like in the Six Nations).

“But it depends on the nation and what our exit plan is for this. My coaching jobs are all down. I’m just stuck at home. I’ve had some meetings with players but no actual coaching. I coach a team in Sweden and they don’t have a lockdown like we do here. It’s much more liberal and they still have training sessions and outdoor activities.”

He added: “There are so many people dying and families getting destroyed that as long as I stay healthy I’m lucky. Hopefully it’s going to resolve itself so we can all get back to work in time to pay the bills. At some point we’ll have to get back to survive.”

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