WARRIORS chief executive Jim O’Toole says he’s in favour of a plan to expand the Aviva Premiership to 14 clubs from the start of the 2016-17 season.

O’Toole, who was previously the commercial director at London Irish, believes an expansion from 12 to 14 teams would be a progressive step for rugby union in England.

The proposal, first aired by clubs earlier this year, could also include the scrapping of promotion and relegation from the top flight.

The weakness of London Welsh in the Premiership this season could have convinced those backing the plan that the gulf with the Championship is now too wide for promotion and relegation.

Former top-flight clubs, such as Bedford Blues, Rotherham, London Scottish and Nottingham, could be cast adrift by the proposal.

Warriors are pushing for promotion from the Championship after relegation from England’s top table last term.

The full support of the 14 clubs who own Premiership shares, which includes Worcester, Bristol and Yorkshire Carnegie, would be needed before the plan could be agreed as policy.

It would then have to be put before the RFU for approval.

O’Toole said: “The return journey to the Premiership has been brought further into focus with the news of a potential expansion of the competition to 14 teams.

“We see this as part of a natural expansion as professional club rugby enters its third decade.

“The sport has changed dramatically since the momentous decision by the IRB in Paris in 1995 and the potential to move to a 14-team top tier for English rugby is part of that long-term progression.

“The key issues for the clubs who have invested many millions of pounds is the need to build a league with member clubs that are sustainable businesses with proven infrastructure, organisation and support base.

“An expanded Premiership would offer greater opportunities for young English talent to develop.

“Youth development is at the very heart of our long-term rugby and business planning.

“There will undoubtedly be much debate on the matter, on the overall structure of professional rugby and the issue of relegation and promotion.

“We shall watch and listen with much interest as the various stakeholders decide on the future shape of our sport.”