Thursday 19 September 2019

London Irish on cusp of top flight and more major signings

Paddy Jackson is among those reportedly heading to Sunbury. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Paddy Jackson is among those reportedly heading to Sunbury. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ben Coles

Next month will mark 10 years since London Irish lost their only Premiership final, by a point against Leicester Tigers.

The club then slid into irrelevance following two relegations.

Now the tide is turning. Next year, Irish will move from the Madejski Stadium in Reading to Brentford Football Club's new ground, significantly closer to their Hazelwood training centre.

The list of confirmed signings for next season also suggests that after years of scraping together enough to stay in the top flight, the Exiles might have enough in their arsenal to be competitive again.

Allan Dell, Curtis Rona, Nick Phipps and Sean O'Brien are on their way, with Waisake Naholo, and Paddy Jackson among those reportedly heading to Sunbury.

Irish are not promoted from the Championship yet, however.

Victory today at Richmond is required finally to see off the threat of Ealing, who trail by eight points with two rounds remaining.


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Should Irish slip up, and Ealing win at home to Bedford tomorrow, the clubs would be in a shoot-out for promotion when they play each other on the final day of the season.

"Although there is a lot of great news off the field, it does put a bit more pressure on us to perform and get promotion," says Franco van der Merwe, the veteran Springbok lock.

"If all goes well this weekend, I think there will be a lot of announcements over the next two weeks."

The arrival of Declan Kidney and Les Kiss from Ireland came too late last season to save Irish from relegation, but the coaches' stamp has been easy to spot this season.

Their rolling maul has been relentless, with hooker Dave Porecki appropriately the club's top try-scorer.

When the ball has been spread wide, the latest crop of exciting young English backs out of Irish's academy - including Jacob Atkins, Matt Williams, Tom Parton and, in particular, Ben Loader - have thrived.

The combination of all those elements has left Irish on the cusp of a return to the top flight. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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